Young girls from Purulia district meet Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil at Rashtrapati Bhavan
NEW DELHI, India, 14 May, 2009 - The President of India, Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil has praised - Rekha Kalindi, Sunita Mahato and Afsana Khatun - young girls from Purulia district of West Bengal for showing courage in resisting their early marriage despite parental and societal pressure.
The three girls met the President at Rashtrapati Bhavan today. All three were till 2007 child labourers until they became part of the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) and were admitted to special schools.
Tales of courage and determination
Rekha Kalindi, age 11 years used to roll beedis with her parents. Due to low family income, Rekha's parents wanted to marry her off but she resisted saying she wanted to continue her education and would not marry till she got a job.
With the assistance of her school friends and teachers, Rekha convinced her parents about the ill effects of this social practice. Similarly, Afsana Khatun, age 13 years was a child labourer but today she is an active participant of the Child Activist Initiative of NCLP.
Sunita Mahato, age 13 years as a child labourer used to roll beedis and worked on the farm. She is also a Child Activist in the NCLP.
President stresses on the ills of early marriage
Speaking on the occasion, the President said that she was very happy that the girls had shown courage to resist child marriage. Smt. Patil was also happy that their parents were convinced and accepted the advice of teachers and friends.
She also was happy at the work being done by NCLP. The President said the girls' courage, has had a positive effect on their communities and is leading to more girls resisting child marriage.
The President felt that social evils could only be brought to an end through more awareness. It is not only necessary to send girls to school but it is also necessary to give them social education to make them aware of the social evils which they must resist, the President added.
The need of the hour is to have a big national awareness campaign, the President said. Smt. Patil said the three girls represent messengers of social change.
A child marriage according to the President destroys at least 10 other lives, as the young child soon becomes a mother, and then becomes victim of failing health due to numerous childbirths, which ultimately affects the health of her children. This then goes to continue the cycle of poverty from which a family can never recover.
The President gave Rekha, Afsana and Sunita Rs.10, 000/- each as an appreciation of their courage and determination and also for use in their further education. Smt. Patil said India cannot progress until there is inclusive growth with every section given an opportunity for advancement and growth.
The Girls and their parents were given guided tour of Rashtrapati Bhavan and later had lunch.