“You are entering a dowry-free area,” a board greets you as you enter this town. Not a single dowry related case has been reported in Nilambur in many years. This small town in north Kerala has shown the world how to contain social evils effectively. For this dowry-free and perhaps fully matriculate municipality of the country, social development is its engine of growth. The area has many tales of bravery when it comes to fighting social evils. There are many places where dowry is non-existence in India but people of Nilambur fought to get rid of this social malaise.
Nilambur’s anti-dowry campaign began in 2007 when the panchayat took a survey to find out the number of homeless in the area. It was found that at least one-third people lost their homes to banks and money-sharks after they took loans to marry off their daughters. More than 1,000 girls (total population is 45,000) said they remained unmarried because they could not afford dowry required to get a groom. “It really opened our eyes. In 2009, we took a pledge to make Nilambur a dowry-free village in a year,” said municipality chairman Aryadan Shoukath, the brain behind the movement. Young men and women took the challenge head on. There were public meetings in all villages, door-to-door campaigns, street plays and motivation classes. ‘Dump dowry’ associations were set up and informers were deployed to give a tip-off about such cases. Mass community marriages were conducted.
‘Say No To Dowry’ soon became the catchword of the area. “We fashioned it in a way that dowry is the biggest crime in one’s life and it did wonders, and we succeeded” said K Shabeer Ali, a volunteer. After effectively countering dowry, issues like domestic violence and marital desertions are now being taken up. Furthermore, several Self Help Groups are being created to make the best of entrepreneurial skills and provide financial independence to women!

Source – hindustantimes

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