Vijaywati is the second among her three sisters. She says she is 15 or 16 years old, as she is unsure of her exact date of birth and year. She is at her mother’s place, who lives in Sahawuda village, outskirts of Indore district of Madhya Pradesh. She studied till class 5th, then dropped out as her village did not have any middle school. She got married three years back, now has a son who is more than two years old. She looks feeble, and anemic.
It is not only her, many of her friends in her maternal village have not been to school, and get married at an early age or when they barely touch 18 years. 500 kilometres away from Indore in Baxuwaha, block of Chhattarpur district which is at north eastern border of Madhya Pradesh girls are being taught to say no to child marriage. 50 girls, part of summer camp organised at Kasturba Gandhi Vidyalya hostel by State’s Department of Education are debating why girls should not get married before age of 18 years. They shared a story of Radhika from ‘teacher’s manual’ for children education.
As per story Radhika was 16 years old and her parents wanted to get her married, which is normal practice in their community. While Radhika wanted to study and she did not want to be left behind but her parents were not interested that she studied, rather they wanted her to get married. After reading this, teacher stopped and let these girls debate on the issue. Archana, a student of eighth standard after listening to the story reiterated that Radhika should resent and girls should get married after 18 years of age and after completing their studies. Not only these two but all 50 girls resonated by raising hands in the process of discussion that all want, believe and they will get married after 18 years. Many of them felt that not only 18 years but they want and should be allowed to complete their studies before they are asked to get married.
Summer camps like this are organised in every district by Education department to get girls who have dropped out of the schools back into mainstream of education system. In addition girls who want to be part of the extra- curricular activities being held at the hostel, also join. Girls are not only taught regular books, but are also oriented on life skills and given vocational training like stiching, embroidery etc.
29.5 % girls and 40 % of boys get married in Madhya Pradesh before attaining legal marriageable age. Though this year due to efforts of the State, some 300 marriages did not happen, but are few if compared to the number of boys and girls which get married before attaining legal age of marriage.
It is voices of young girls like Archana, Pooja and many other girls who are getting determined to make a difference and say no to child marriage. This will matter a lot when it comes to stopping child marriage. Though numbers are declining but need is to stop this child rights violation. Efforts need to be put in to inform and engage young people and have a long term campaign engaging communities to say complete no to this violation of child rights.