My Childhood, My Right
Fifteen-year-old Anita Puddar would have left midway her dream of becoming a doctor had she accepted her parent’s wish to marry her rich cousin. Today Anita is studying hard to achieve her cherished dream. UNICEFIndia/2011/lanaslezic©2011
A joint initiative by district administration and UNICEF to end child marriage in Malda district of West Bengal is helping girls like Anita gain the knowledge and confidence to say no to child marriage
Anita Puddar (R) tries hard to convince her father to cancel her marriage in front of a large audience. An actress in the play, Anita is spreading awareness about child marriage and importance of education of girl child among villagers of Hosnabad Diyara village in Malda district. UNICEFIndia/2011/lanaslezic©2011
The street theatre promotes and influences discussion among the parents and other community members in the village about effects of child marriage and its legal implications. It also gives adolescent girls the knowledge and confidence to negotiate with their parents and say no to marriage. UNICEFIndia/2011/lanaslezic©2011
In West Bengal, Malda has the second highest percentage of girls getting married before the legal age. Six out of ten married women in Malda are child brides and almost a fifth of adolescent girls aged 15-19 years are mothers. UNICEFIndia/2011/lanaslezic©2011
Indian legislation banned child marriage in 1929 and enforced it with the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 making it illegal for girls to marry below 18 and for boys below 21 years
Anita joined this theatre group a year and half ago after her parents planned to marry her with her cousin, which she refused. “They never asked my opinion. I was very upset,” Anita recalls
Some neighbours and especially the community’s young women supported Anita’s struggle.
Being in the theatre group has given Anita the power to voice her opinion. “Now people recognize me and know who I am and they listen to me
Education of girls and their economic independence are seen as key solutions to save them from getting married at an early age. “It is useless to talk about prevention of child marriage if the girls have no alternative options for livelihood and will continue to be seen as parents’ liability and burden,
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