Kolkata: Five brave girls from West
Bengal, described by President Pratibha Patil as icons, are
becoming agents of change and inspiring other young girls in the
fight against child marriages.
Afsana Khatun, Bina Kalindi, Mukti Majhi, Sangita Bauri and Sunita
Mahato hit the headlines by fighting off pressure from their
families and calling off their marriages in order to continue
They are now forming groups with teenagers campaigning against
minor girls' marriages in Purulia district. They were honoured by
an NGO Friday.
"If we get the news that preparations of marriage of an under-age
girl are going on in our village, we go to the girl's house and
persuade her parents not to indulge in child marriage," said
Patil, who invited the girls to Rashtrapati Bhavan recently, told
them to share their stories and encourage other girls to protest
against the social evil.
The five girls, whose primary education got delayed as most of
them had to work as domestic helps due to poverty, are now
dreaming to become teachers and police women.
Sangita, now a high school student and a participant in the "Child
Activist Initiative" of the central government-sponsored National
Child Labour Project (NCLP), has formed a team of five girls in
her Ladaga village to create awareness against child marriage.
"In our community when a girl gets married at an age of 12-13
years, her education stops. We urge the parents of teenaged girls
to help them continue their studies," Sangita said here Friday
evening at a programme organised by NGO Dhanwantari Seva
Sangita now wants to become a police woman to punish people who
commit atrocities against girls.
Asked when she will be getting married, Sangita said: "I will
marry after becoming financially established."
The NGO, which sponsors education of underprivileged girls,
felicitated the five teenagers in recognition to their courageous
stand against child marriage.
Mukti, who is now studying in Class 7, said she also set up a
group of five girls to create awareness against the social evil
and encourage her peers to say no to child marriage. She is also
dreaming of a career in the police force.
Purulia Additional Labour Commissioner Prosenjit Kundu, who
supported the girls, said: "It is a social custom in their
communities to get married at the age of 12 or 13 years."
"But these girls have seen that under-age marriage of their elder
sisters did not come off well. After marriage, they had to stop
their studies and some of them were even deserted by their
husbands," Kundu said.
"These girls called off their early marriage and dissuaded
community leaders. Now these girls have become inspiration for
other girls," Kundu said.