App saves schoolgirl from child marriage

App saves schoolgirl from child marriage

Virtually left with no hope, a 13- year-old schoolgirl in a Bihar village sent out a distress message through a mobile app of a UN-backed platform that eventually saved her from becoming a victim of child marriage.

"In the last week of November, we received an SOS from a girl in Darbhanga through our app who informed us that her parents were forcing her to get married.

"After verifying the complaint through our civil society partners, we immediately reached out to the DGP in Patna, who then informed the local police authorities," a senior official of Gender Alliance said on the condition of anonymity.

Patna-based Gender Alliance, an initiative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), had launched the Android- based app named "Bandhan Tod" in September to sensitise people across the state against dowry, child marriage, domestic violence and gender inequality.

"Incidentally, the boy was also a minor (15). So, had it not been for this app, perhaps the two teenagers would have become victims of child marriage, spelling doom for both of them," the official said.

"The app is in Hindi since we want to reach out rural areas, where the practice is more prevalent. It has an SOS button, which allows a potential victim to reach to us directly," she said.

The Gender Alliance recently carried out an analysis of data based on 2011 census of the country. "The analysis showed that for Bihar, the state average for predicted child marriage rate stood at 39%," she said, adding, for the Benipur block, from where the girl hails, the "corresponding figure is 38.16%".

Benipur block is about 30 km out of Darbhangha district headquarters, which is located about 150 km from the state capital of Patna.

Benipur Sub-Divisional Police Officer Anjani Kumar, said technology, such as this app, can prove to be a boon in combating social evils like dowry and child marriage.

"The moment we received the instruction from Patna police headquarters, we swung into action. We met the family members and convinced them against the idea of child marriage," he said.

The Gender Alliance, now seeks to reach out to girls and women in distress, across the state, hoping that the Bihar government and district authorities would adopt the application to combat social evils.

The app, among other features, offers a user Rs 100 in e-transaction, as an incentive, after it is downloaded.


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