Fifteen-year-old Sarita and her 14-year-old friend Mali have become the stars of Pusa village, 25 km from Jamshedpur, Jharkhand. They have declared to their parents that now is not the time for them to get married.
It was their teacher, Pradeep Kumar, who gave them the confidence to take this bold step.
According to the Annual Health Survey 2010–2011, Jharkhand has the third highest number of child marriages in India, only after Rajasthan and Bihar. And as per the National Family Health Survey 2015–2016, the occurrence of child marriage of girls is 44 percent in rural areas and 21 percent in urban areas.
As per a UNICEF report, child brides have more children than girls who get married after 19. Also, the babies of these child brides mostly die within the first year of birth. Moreover, the chances of a girl between 15 and 19 years of age dying during childbirth are high.
Therefore, this move, helmed by their teacher, comes as a victory for these children.
It all began when 14-year-old Mali was summoned home from school by her sister. While describing this incident, she says that there were guests at home whom she had never met. She was later shocked to learn from her parents that these guests had come to see her in the context of marriage.
Mali then confided in her friend Sarita, and they went to their teacher Pradeep with the problem. He then gathered a team of his students and paid a visit to Mali’s parents. He informed the parents about child marriage being illegal, and how it is a punishable offence.
Within a few days, Sarita learned that her parents were also planning to marry her off. The team again gathered to pay her parents a visit to make them aware of the disadvantages of child marriage.
Pradeep ensured that the parents were made aware of the health issues a young girl could face during pregnancy. He also convinced the parents to focus on these girls’ studies.
As village schools are always short of teachers, Mali wishes to enter the profession when she grows up. Pradeep is immensely proud of these girls’ bravery and desires to help them achieve their dreams.
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