Reshma Pathan always dreamt of winning an award. Last week, she was given the Navjyoti award for successfully resisting her family’s plans to get her married at a young age. “I always dreamt of achieving something in life that would bring me an award. I feel proud holding this certificate in my hand,” said 16-year old Pathan, a resident of Dhakalgaon in Jalna, after receiving the award from Marathi film actress Nishigandha Wad at the Doordarshan studio last week.
Apart from Pathan, 8 other girls who thwarted their parents plan for early marriages were honoured by the Navjyoti award programme jointly organised by UNICEF and Doordarshan’s Sahyadri channel.
Pathan had attended the Deepshikha programme sponsored by UNICEF that educates rural girls with an aim to promote women empowerment and gender equality. “When I attended those classes, people of my village tried to discourage me by using abusive language.” added Pathan
Another award winner Pali Pallo, 18, said her family stopped talking to her after she refused to give in to their marriage wishes. “Now I stay in the school where I am completing my education. I have to earn money by working in a few houses,” she added.
Achal Bagde from Gondiya district is just 12 years old, and while she has not been pressurised to get married by her parents, many of her friends have been. “I am well educated about the problems of early marriage. Although my family has not discussed my marriage plans yet, some of my friends have faced the problem,” said Bagde.
“I get inspired hearing the stories of these girls. Hats off to their courage” said Tejinder Singh Sandhu, chief field officer for UNICEF Maharashtra.