Seventeen-year-old Kamala is excited. The seeds sown by her have now blossomed into fresh spinach and fenugreek. It is her moment of pride and delight.
Kamala is a victim of child marriage. Early marriage takes a toll on a girl’s health, her education is affected and in some cases, she is a victim of domestic and sexual abuse. Girls like Kamala are part of an extremely vulnerable and marginalised section of society whose issues are not usually given attention to.
Terre des Hommes Netherlands’ project Initiatives for Married Adolescent Girls Empowerment (IMAGE) in India constantly strives to provide a better life for early married girls. The project works in vulnerable districts of Karnataka where child marriage is prevalent.
As part of the COVID-19 relief and rehabilitation, one activity was to train these girls in kitchen gardening. A total of 165 girls from 18 villages were provided with vegetable seeds and taught how to plant them in their backyard.
This activity kept the girls engaged and proved to be a great stressbuster, addressing the anxiety and other psychosocial issues arising out of the pandemic which exacerbates their existing vulnerability.
The activity also had a dual benefit as it provided the girls’ families with a free and sufficient supply of vegetables for consumption, the purchase of which would have caused an economic strain due to the loss of livelihoods due to COVID-19.
The girls are happy to have learnt a new skill. They now plant the seeds of their empowerment, turning a crisis period into an opportune endeavour.