In a first, a village called Achanak in Mansa district has renamed itself as “Child Marriage Free Village Achanak” and displayed the same at the village entrance. In an attempt to check the practice of child marriage, the village panchayat has announced that villagers will have to deposit birth certificates along with marriage card with the village panchayat before marrying off their wards. In 2016, an attempted child marriage in the village, which was averted by the Child Protection Committee members, led to the drive against the practice.
Paramjeet, sarpanch of the village, said, “We carried out door-to-door awareness drive and also announced that birth certificates would have to be submitted with the village panchayat along with the marriage card. We will get the age of bride and groom checked on our own. In case of any doubt, we will inform the police and other departments concerned. This announcement was done four months back. After that, two marriages happened in the village. In both cases, families submitted with us birth certificates which were found to be correct.”
On Tuesday, when the village proudly displayed its changed name at its entrance, district child protection unit officials and representatives from Save the Children, an international child rights organisation, and its partner Society for All Round development (SARD) were present.
The hoarding at the village entrance also announces that if anyone gets information about a child marriage taking place in the village, they can contact the child protection committee formed in the village to prevent the same. “We are proud that we are natives of child marriage free village,” the hoarding says further.
Jatin Mondar, project director of SARD, said, “Such an initiative will make a sustainable impact on improving lives of the children in the future.”
District child protection officer Harjot Singh Manshahia also congratulated the villagers and asked other villagers to follow suit. SARD is supporting the government’s efforts to stop child marriages in 160 villages of Punjab, officials said.