Resource centre on India's rural distress

Ensuring delayed marriage requires concerted efforts to keep girls in school for longer -Sheila Vir

-The Indian Express

A well-educated woman’s chances of making informed decisions and exercising greater agency in the household is monumental in breaking the cycle of poverty, ill health, as well as malnutrition.

India’s Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) stands at 122 as per the latest Sample Registration System (SRS) bulletin from last year — a significant decline from an MMR of 556 in 1990. A parallel decrease in the prevalence of child marriage is also noted — 58 per cent in 1970-80 to 21 per cent by 2015-16. There is, however, a wide variation amongst states — highest in West Bengal at 39 per cent followed by Bihar and Jharkhand. The 2015-16 national family health survey (NFHS 4) also confirms the urban-rural difference in the incidence of early marriage — 17.5 per cent in urban and 31.5 per cent in rural women.

However, despite these positive developments, intrauterine growth restriction and poor birth outcome for gestational age and low birth weight (LBW) remain a grave concern, with three out of 10 children being LBW and a neonatal mortality rate of 23/1000 live births. Early marriage and early pregnancy play a central role in this grim scenario.

The relationship between the level of education and early marriage is well established. With no education, 44.7 per cent women are married before 18 years. This drops to 39.7 per cent with primary education, 23.2 per cent with secondary education and 2.9 per cent with higher education. With higher levels of education, women are also empowered to take decisions within the family and better equipped to inculcate safe sex, family planning and safe abortion practices.

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