Everyday, over 41,000 minor girls are married off. It deeply affects these child brides, as it etches physical, emotional, and psychological scars on their mind. In India, child marriages has set it roots deep in regions where parents and relatives, because of poverty or lack of alternative, often practice this, as they consider the girl child as a liability.
Ending this practice is a battle India is still fighting. The country achieved its first milestone when The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act was announced in 2006. Not only the government but people, especially women, stood up and fought for this to support the cause.
Roshni Bairwa is one such inspiration who displayed extraordinary courage to make a change in this patriarchal society. She was heartlessly abandoned by her mother at the age of two and was raised by her grandparents. She always wanted to become a teacher and help the community by providing education.
Growing up, Roshni witnessed the age-old tradition of child marriage and started feeling acutely critical about it. She wanted to stop this unholy practice and educate people about their misbeliefs. Little did she know that her family will soon push her into the same dark, bottomless pit.
Roshni was just 14 when her grandparents forced to marry her off. In Tonk district of Rajasthan, she was not the first nor the last to face this pressure. But what she did next was definitely a first.
Standing against the family
She refused to get married and stepped down from becoming another child bride in the state. She reached out to her teachers at the school and asked for help. The teachers managed to talk to her grandparents out of this idea of marriage but this wasn’t the end for Roshni. Her courage to speak up angered the entire family as they couldn’t stand women raising their voice against them.
Her uncle stopped funding her education. They stopped talking to her for a long while and she was isolated from the society. Despite the criticism, she carried on with her motto to stop child marriages. She inspired many community members and they decided to contribute to her education.
“I was told about the ill-effects of child marriage in meetings organized by a local NGO, Shiv Shiksha Samiti. I gathered courage and informed my teachers, the sarpanch, and others about the plans of my family members. They came to my house and convinced my grandparents against it,” said Roshni, a BA final year student at a private college in Peeplu, near the village.
Facing criticism by the society
The unequal position of women in society leads to women being doubly oppressed. This proved true for Roshni, who had more enemies than friends in her village. Whisperings of her manners and morals were on the street. Instances where other parents told their kids to stay away from her were common. They thought she would manipulate them into odd thinking and turn them rebellious.
“Till STD 12, many people did not allow their children to interact with me as they felt that I would misguide their daughters,” she said.
Despite all the challenges, she came out as an exemplary woman who impacted largely on the tradition of child marriages in Rajasthan. She changed the vision of her community and bestowed them with the importance of education and career for young girls. Vilification and socially agony failed to stop her from speaking up.
She started working with NGOs and ran campaigns to stop child marriages. She also stopped over 15 child marriages by herself. Roshni, who is currently in her final year of graduation at college, is hustling to achieving her childhood dream of becoming a teacher.
It is women like her who stand up against the wrong and shine. This young girl had every reason to give up the fight but she chose not to and fought till she succeeded. We salute her spirit and wish her all the best for her future.
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