Imagine your birth certificate being the only thing that can stop you from becoming a child bride. A piece of paper that could change the course of your life.
In Nepal, a girl’s cheena, or astrological chart, is playing a crucial role in deterring her from being married off before she reaches adulthood.
It’s a deeply embedded tradition where marriages are arranged — and often forced through — by parents or relatives of the girl. Some are as young as 12 months.
This can have a variety of inherently detrimental consequences. In the short-term, girls are more likely to drop out of school and are less likely to have access to information about birth control and contraception.
In the long-run, they are more likely to suffer the dangerous impacts from early childbearing. And in a vicious intergeneration circle, the women are less likely to rise out of poverty so that they can spare their own daughters from enduring the same fate.
Surprisingly, astrologers, Hindu priests and shamans could hold the key to ending this perilous cycle.
In a remote far western part of Nepal, some of these religious leaders are using their standing in traditional communities to educate families about the consequences of child marriage.