With so many negativity in the world, it was very refreshing to read this story. As a mother of a six year old girl, I am an advocated for children rights and wellbeing. This is a story about changing culture and norms. This is want progress is all about and it’s incredible what an educated mind can achieve and change. I commend these young girls for standing up in solidary for their future and wellbeing.
Keshanta Gujar, 16, wants to be a teacher. Rajyanti Bairwa, 17, hopes to become a doctor.
Laali Bairwa, 15, isn’t sure just yet what she wants to be when she grows up. But she, like her classmates in a rural part of Jaipur in the Indian state of Rajasthan, is certain she doesn’t want to be a child bride. “My life would be ruined,” said Rajyanti, who at 16 resisted her parents’ efforts to marry her off. “I refused the marriage because I want to study and be something.” Keshanta and Laali were 13 years old when their families pushed them to get married. Like Rajyanti, they refused, and, with the help of their teachers, persuaded their parents to let them continue their education.
In India, where 47 percent of girls are married before the age of 18, refusals like these are few and far between. But programs aimed at educating and empowering girls are beginning to bear fruit, giving these girls the confidence to say “no” to early marriage, which, for many, would once have been a foregone conclusion.
Those advocating for an end to child marriage say it’s hardly a trend at this point, as India still has one of the world’s highest child marriage rates. In fact, an estimated 26 million Indian women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before their 18thbirthdays, and another 28 million will face the same fate over the next two decades if current trends continue, according to data gathered by UNFPA, the UN Population Fund.
Because girls with no education are more than three times as likely to marry as children than girls who attend secondary school, CULP and other programs like it are instrumental in ending child marriage. For Laali and her classmates, that means a future full of possibilities, all of their choosing. “What do I want to do in the future in my life? I will study and be what God makes of me,” she said. “We study and we can be anything.”