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A girl who turned against menace of child marriage
"Premature pregnancy and motherhood are an inevitable consequence of child marriage. Girls under 15 are five times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than women in their twenties." -State of the World's Children 2007, UNICEF.

Though they are few in numbers, it hasn't yet been eradicated. With the act considered as violation of human rights, the ancient traditional practice of "Baal Vivah" or ?Child marriage? hasn't seen its end even today. In a recent incident at Mahabubnagar district of Andhra Pradesh, 16-year-old Suhasini has turned out to be a "hero" for her crucial role in opposing this illegal act.

Suhasini, D/o Pochaiah 16 years, Mahabubnagar, India - Her fate looked sealed when her family began organizing the nuptial celebration. But the bride - to - be, a shy college girl form a remote village in southern India, wasn't ready to say "I do".

In a region where patriarchy and age-old customs dictate a woman's life from birth to death, 16 years old Suhasini about to Join a small but growing number of girls who are standing up against the widespread practice of child marriage in India.

"My family was in the midst of planning my wedding." Recalled Suhasini, her black hair pinned in bun and a gold stud in her nose, as she sat on a step outside her home in Edulapuram village in Andhra pradesh State.

"My father had decided that I get married and settled. I was scared to say anything against it at first."

"I went to my mother and told her I wanted to study more and get a job, and only after that would I get married," added the girl, who is from a subsistence farming community that ekes out a living by grooving crops like cotton and paddy.

But Suhasini didn't stop there. She determined to confront the norms that marry girls at an early age. She've enquired her friends and came to know about Vandemataram Foundation.

Then she called Madhava Reddy (Secretary, Vandemataram Foundation), - to seek advice and press home the point to her family that the legal age for marriage in Indian is 18.

Few days ago around five volunteers working on child bride-saving mission, went to the village and volunteers shared with the family of Suhasini. They have counselled and explained to them, the legal consequences of forcing a child marriage. As a result Suhasini's marriage was postponed.

Her parents made to promise to the volunteers saying they will get their daughter married only after she attains legal age and will support their daughter education.

"Child Marriage" has been a child's nightmare since ages as described and protested by Madhava Reddy, and he added that ?When these girls grow up & have a career then their parents will realise that Suhasini was right. We believe this case definitely bring much-needed awareness about India?s child marriages and give courage to hundreds of other girls to challenge the tradition. As, many girls have come forward since.??

Through education and exposure to the modern world, girls are beginning to take decisions over their own lives and are helping to lift the curse of early marriage that has plagued India for centuries. Our volunteers who realise that offering a helping hand to girls in need at the right time could change their lives, we decided to make this her life?s mission. We try to educate as many girls about the risks involved in early marriages. They lack support at home. Most of them oppose, but their resistance doesn't last long.

Vandemataram Foundation established support groups for high school girls that enable them to share experiences and tell each other if they are under pressure to marry. And working with everyone in the community to change attitudes towards child marriage. The main purpose is to strengthen the social fabric in the rural area by strengthening families and communities.

 



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Vibhav Kant Upadhyay
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