Siddharthnagar (Uttar Pradesh): Gautam Kumar, a student
of Class 10, eagerly waits for his school to get over so he can
join his friends - not to play games, but asking others his age
not to marry.
The 16-year-old is among around 200 members of a young brigade,
striving to prevent child marriages in villages of Siddharthnagar
district, some 350 km from Lucknow.
"Our main aim is to convince the locals not to marry off their
sons and daughters before they turn 21 and 18 respectively,"
Gautam, a native of Dohni village, told IANS.
"It really feels great to work for a social cause. Students of my
age must not forget that they are victims of the social evil that
cannot be weeded out without their cooperation and support," he
The credit for empowering Kumar and other teenagers to take up the
social cause goes to the NGO Shohratgarh Environmental Society
"Students and youths in the age group of 15-20 years are
contributing their bit to sensitising villagers about the ill
effects of child marriages," SES secretary B.S. Srivastava told
For over two years, SES has been undertaking training and
counselling programmes for teenagers to make them aware of
problems related to child marriages and early pregnancies.
"The 200 members, both boys and girls, serve as peer educators,
primarily targeting people in the age group of 15-20 years. With
young peer educators, the target audience tends to take them
seriously. This is probably because peer educators are also of
their age group," he added.
At present, with the help of peer educators, SES covers around 60
villages in Siddharthnagar.
"We visit door to door, organise public meetings, distribute
manuals and engage in other activities also to make students of
our age group aware of the social evil. Those who come into
contact with us thereafter sensitise others, including their
parents, relatives or neighbours," said Sakal Gupta, 18, a Class
12 student and native of Baadgun village.
"Apart from physical problems, we also tell the target group about
the additional responsibilities that automatically come with early
marriage. We tell them that without a job it would not be possible
for them to take care of their family," he added.
Peer educators believe if students take out some time in
undertaking a campaign against child marriages, the social evil
can be fought independently by them.
"Social activists and government agencies are doing their work,
but if students also join in the fight, they could bring more
positive changes in society," said Gupta.