KATHMANDU, 20 Nov 2012 – Today, Nepal celebrated the World Day of Prayer and Action with leaders from different religious groups, all of whom were agreed that religion can be a powerful vehicle for social transformation.
The Day of Prayer and Action (DPAC) is a movement that harnesses the powerful role that religious communities can play in protecting children by promoting affirmative measures. This year’s theme for DPAC is reduction in Child Marriage. Over 60 million girls worldwide are child brides, married before the age of 18, more than half of whom are in South Asia (31.1 million). Though Child Marriage is illegal in Nepal, more than half of Nepalese girls get married before their 18th birthday.
“Secular or inter-faith organisations can really play an important role,” said Kul Chandra Gautam, President of DPAC; former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and former Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF. “Only a diamond can cut a diamond,” he said to describe the importance of faith-based interventions to stop harmful traditional practices used in the name of religions. “Law enforcement alone is not sufficient to eliminate the traditional practices that cripple our society. It is essential to work with our religious leaders so that they can inform and influence our communities to change society,” he said.
The event saw more than hundred children from diverse faiths participating at the event. A group of them expressed that none of their religions endorsed violence against children. There were also performances by children from Hindu, Muslim and Jain religions in which they expressed opinions on child marriage using placards to show its ill effects.
“Child marriage is one of the most harmful practices, as it usually denies girls educational opportunities, leads to poverty and economic insecurity and has a serious negative impact on their health and decision-making capacities,” said Nafisa Binte Shafique, Chief of HIV and AIDS, UNICEF Nepal. “UNICEF is keen to partner with the inter-faith organizations to address the harmful social norms. However, the interventions should be creative, innovative, sustainable and must ensure participation of adolescents.”
The World Day of Prayer and Action was launched in 2008 to improve the lives of children everywhere. Today, along with Nepal, 71 other countries are celebrating this day to further develop the social, educational, health and overall condition of children through faith-based approaches.