Sita Pariyar is now 45, she has been married 30 years. Shanti BK married as a teen and is now 26. Asha Magar was married at 13, became a mother at 17, and is now 20 years old.
All three women are from Surkhet, one of the districts in Nepal where despite a sharp rise in female literacy, the average age of marriage is still low. They say it was a mistake to get married so young, and are determined to convince others like them to wait till they are older.
“I endured such hardship because I got married young, but back then I didn’t know any better,” says Sita Pariyar who got married at 15 and had four children by the time she was 20. “I tell my children they should not make the mistake I did.”
Pariyar’s husband eloped with another woman and abandoned her with the children when she was only 20. “There were days when I had nothing to feed my children. Fathers may ignore their children, but mothers cannot,” says Pariyar, who broke stones by the river to earn money to buy food for her four children.
Pariyar has got over years of physical and sexual abuse and the heavy burden of motherhood that resulted from marrying young. Two of her sons got married after age 20, and her 17-year-old daughter is preparing for her Grade 10 exams with no intention of getting married yet.
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