SHG Federation organized its third successive collective marriage program on May 13, 2018 at Naini, Allahabad. Six couples, both bride and groom, who were married this year were a part of the SHG member families. This reflects that the collective marriage program was thus a mutual arrangement amongst the SHG members. The funds for the program were mobilized both from civil society and SHG members. After marriage, PGS supports the married couple to start a micro enterprise for their livelihood as per their skills and market availability.
Collective marriage programs help in achieving the objective of helping the families who take in bad loans to carry out wedding of their family member. It has been observed that poor families are forced to take bad loans from local moneylenders or contractors which range from Rs. 20,000 to 50,000 for conducting the marriage ceremony and eventually after failing to repay the loan, succumb to bonded situations. Therefore, in order to avoid such situations, PGS organizes collective marriage programs, usually every year, the registration for which starts in the month of November on the program of Soil worship (MatiMahotsav).The Collective Marriage comes as a stepping stone for transforming the belief system as its continuous organisation for three consecutive years depicts the acceptance of the event among community members. The community members who participated in the program took a collective oath to not marry their children before the legally prescribed age. They went back to their villages with a strong message that adhering to the age-old custom of child marriage is not only against the law but also is like an unholy practice of selling their children in a tender age. It also helped them understand that taking loans for children’s marriage is like imposing bad debts on their own children. Through collective marriage PGS has been able to influence the cultural values and belief systems, which have been responsible for pushing the communities into intergenerational bondage situations. We presume that acceptance of norms of collective marriage is a step forward towards sustainable freedom.
- Story Behind Collective Marriage -
More than 60 percent of families turn to unscrupulous moneylenders to borrow funds for wedding ceremonies. Loans to cover those costs come with impossibly high interest rates, causing many families to fall into bondage to “work-off” the debt. In 2016, PGS along with its federation of quarry miners organized innovative group wedding wherein five couples were married at the same time so their families could share the financial burden. More than 1,000 people witnessed the occasion. It was not organized by an expensive wedding planner, but by slavery survivors — villagers who want freedom for the next generation by saying “no to debt” for weddings. This event has encouraged the concept of community social responsibility and has helped in achieving self-esteem of the community.
The innovation of collective marriage ceremonies not only changed the mindset of community members, it also helped them envision a slavery-free life for the next generation. With hope for a new dawn of freedom, PGS will be working to help replicate this model in many more slavery-prone communities.
In 2017, 27 families came forward to participate under collective marriage. PGS can facilitate marriage of 10 couples in a function of collective marriage. Therefore, priority will be given to those 10 families who are either under debt bondedness or at a high risk of getting into debt bondedness after marrying their son or daughter (if not selected for collective marriage). The priority will also be given to those families whose sons or daughters are at a marriageable age. The ones whose sons or daughters are still a minor; their marriage will be put on hold until they attain adulthood.