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Sunday, Nov 17, 2019

Women’s Day: They said no to child marriage, pursued academics

Happy Women’s Day: For them, education is the first priority. They said no to child marriage and preferred her academics over marriage.

education Updated: Mar 08, 2019 13:09 IST
Rajeev Mullick
Rajeev Mullick
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day(HT)
         

Uttar Pradesh has seen a positive trend in the recent past – girls have stood up for their rights and firmly said ‘No’ to child marriage.

They have gone against their parents’ wishes and pursued academics, after seeing the ill-effects of early marriage within their family. These girls have also spread awareness against child marriage.

On International Women’s Day, we highlight a few such smart betiyan.

Hindustantimes

Kanaklata Mishra, 25

Kanak Lata, a lawyer from Uttar Pradesh, does not believe in gender stereotypes. As an Internet Saathi, she builds digital literacy among women in her community and inspires adolescents to become storytellers through the Smart Betiyan campaign.

A native of Itwariya village in Shravasti, Kanak Lata has completed LLB from Gonda and is now practising in Shravasti (Bhinda). Her journey has not been easy. In her village, girls are usually married off at the age of 12 or 13. Kanak’s sister, Pinky, got married at 13. After her sister’s marriage, her family started pressurising her to get married.

“I explained to my mother that I wanted to study. She said that I could continue studying even after marriage. I was very disturbed. I approached my sister and brother-in-law. They tried convincing my parents and that is how I got an opportunity to pursue my education,” says Kanaklata.

After completing her college, Kanaklata started teaching in a private school and started going to ‘tehsil’ 2 court. She had applied for registration from the Bar Council of India. She is also working with an NGO. “I want to tell everyone that they should let their daughters study and follow their dreams,” she said.

Hindustantimes

EKTA TIWARI, 15

One day, when Ekta, a Class 9 girl in Ranijot village of Balrampur returned home from school, she overheard her father telling her mother that they should not send their daughter to school. They said it was not safe for her to go to school alone.

“My father, Lal Bahadur Tewari also wanted me to get married. This left me disheartened. Girls must speak up for themselves. I broke my silence and spoke to my mother, Kishori Devi. She understood, but it was a challenge to convince my father,” said Ekta.

Ekta asked her brother, Jata Shankar Tewari, for help but he too got angry. “Then I spoke to my father. I explained to him how early marriage could ruin my life. It took some time, but eventually he was convinced. Currently, I am studying in Class 9. I would like to take up a job in the future so that I can extend financial support to my parents.”

Hindustantimes

GEETA RANA, 23

Geeta of Motipur Kala village in Shravasti was barely 18 when her father, Kanshiram started talking about her marriage. She spoke to her mother, Ramavati, a homemaker and opposed the marriage.

“But my father was firm. He believed that in our Tharu caste, if girls are not married at a young age, it’s difficult to find a suitable match for them later,” she said.

“Girls can be role models for each other and help in persuading families to shun child marriage. Facilitating peer to peer communication is an important way of motivating and these champions are doing just that.” --Mohammad Aftab, child protection officer, Unicef

Her father also said that he was unable to support her education financially. “I decided not to give in to my father’s wish. I approached the village pradhan and sought help. He then came to my house to talk to my parents,” said Geeta.

“The village pradhan said if I am educated, my parents would be able to find a better match for me. He was even ready to finance my education. After a lot of persuasion, my father agreed,” she added.

“Now, I am 23 years old and in the third year of my graduation. I am married and my mother-in-law, Kiran Kumari, is an anganwadi worker. With the support of my husband, Chandan Kumar, and my mother-in-law, I am working as an Internet Saathi.”

Hindustantimes

SADHNA, 22

Sadhna’s elder sister was married at an early age and her parents were also thinking about Sadhna’s marriage.

“We are six sisters. My father, Vishwanath would say, ‘If you don’t get married, how will your younger sisters be married?’ I explained to him that he should allow me to study and if he wanted, he could marry off my younger sisters before me, but only after they complete their education,” said Sadhna, a resident of Khairakala village Shravasti.

After a lot of persuasion, my father agreed. I completed my BA and then my BBA. In 2016, I started working with ‘Save the Children’ to create awareness amongst the community about the ill-effects of child marriage.

KIRAN VERMA, 17

Kiran’s parents wanted to get her married when she was 12.

“We are five sisters and my mother Shanti Devi believed that a girl should get married by the age of 16–17. My sisters got married early but I wanted to study. Hence, I raised my voice against child marriage,” said the girl from Shahpur Bargadva village in Shravasti.

Seeing their daughter’s dedication towards studies, Kiran’s parents stopped pushing her to get married.

Kiran said, “While I am pursuing Intermediate studies, I also help my father in his shop. I have decided that I will put in my best effort in studies and fulfill my dream of becoming a doctor.”

“Girls can be role models for each other and help in persuading families to shun child marriage. Facilitating peer to peer communication is an important way of motivating and these champions are doing just that,” said Mohammad Aftab, child protection officer, Unicef.