What were you doing when you were 8?
Pannilal Yadav doesn't really remember his wedding.
I don't blame him. He was only 8 at the time.
Can you imagine? His bride, Rajkumari, was only 7 — barely half a teenager. They were forced to marry by their parents, and it was the moment that changed their young lives forever. Even if they were too shy to talk to each other for years after their wedding.
You don't often hear about child grooms, but Pannilal's story is not uncommon.
It's true that child brides are more common worldwide, but UNICEF estimates that 156 million boys worldwide are married before age 18. That's not an insignificant number.
In Nepal, where Pannilal lives, child grooms are especially common in poor, rural areas. According to a fascinating new report from CARE titled "Dads Too Soon: The Child Grooms of Nepal," some of the reasons boys are married off so young by their parents include community pressure, having a new income-earner in the family, control of sexuality, and a fear that all the good wives will be gone. Eek.
Pannilal thought getting married as a kid was normal until one day in 9th grade he saw the words "I love you" on a rock.
In his blog post, Pannilal tells a story about being on a school trip in 9th grade, when he saw the words "I love you" painted on a big rock. He had to ask his teacher what “I love you" meant because he didn't know. His teacher replied that the rock was where young people who liked each other secretly met up to say things like that. “You cannot understand, Pannilal," his teacher said. “They are not married young like you."
He had to ask his teacher what “I love you" meant because he didn't know.
After that, it started to click that being married as a kid was kind of messed up and that it was holding him and his wife back in life. She was forced to drop out of school immediately after their wedding (at 7 years old!). He stayed in school until 10th grade, when she had their first child. He watched a lot of his friends finish school and go on to have impressive careers — and he felt stuck.
Today, Pannilal is a community organizer, educating people about the harms of child marriage.
It's through CARE's project called Tipping Point, and his wife — the one he married when he was 8 — is happy he's doing it. She once said to him, “It would have been nice if I was married to you when I was big enough to understand what it really means to be together." #truth
Everyone should be able to have control over their futures.
I think it's safe to say Pannilal and his wife Rajkumari would agree. Pannilal has quite a story about how his experience helped shape the work he does today. It's definitely worth a watch: