RIn many villages in India, the optimum time for a girl to get married is considered to be before she hits puberty. ‘The younger the better’ is the prevalent opinion. With the existence of child marriage (despite laws against it), the existence of dowry remains widespread too. Not only does an unmarried girl bring dishonour to her family as she gets older, but her dowry increases with age and education too. To the parents of the girl, getting her married is a way of securing her future.

Rajni Devi (center, in light pink) helps coach girls in her small village, in Uttar Pradesh, on how to get an education and achieve dreams beyond marriage. Photo Credit: https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/17/health/india-child-marriage-intl/index.html

Approximately 17 million girls between the ages of 10 and 19 are married in India, making it the country to have the highest number of child brides in the world. Most of these girls have no say in the matter, and come from a line of women who were also married between that age group. One such girl is Rajni, but what makes her story different is that she fought back.

Rajni, from Northern India, was in the middle of her 8th grade examinations when she found out her parents’ plans to get her married. Only 14, Rajni dreamed of a future beyond marriage and children, and spent weeks trying to reason with her parents who eventually gave in. She appealed to the struggles her mother faced when she was married at the age of 11, and became determined to help other girls like her in the community.  

She trained girls to reason with their parents and fight for their education and at the age of 18, Rajni was leading a self-help and empowerment group in her village. Child marriage most often ended prospects of further education for the girl and marked the beginning of her new life as a wife and even sometimes a mother soon after. Many young girls in poverty actually believed that getting married would solve their problems and secure them a future; a mindset that Rajni aims to change.

Young girls like Rajni exist all over the country who with their courage and determination inspire hundreds and sprinkle seeds of hope for change through their journey.

-Ananya J.
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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