"Here I am, watching my little Asha being groomed into a bride. Ready to leave home for another. Leaving me. I hold myself responsible as a mother for what is happening to her right now. She will have to go through what I have been through and many other women like me. But how could I fight all of them -- change their minds and make them see the dreams I had for my little Asha. I wish there was a way to break this vicious cycle of violence. I wish my Asha was given space to blossom into a young confident woman who can make her own choices and inspire millions of other little girls and boys in India. But I live in hope (Asha) for the future generations of India,"
One might think that Devi's story cannot happen anymore, that the world is today a better place than the one described above, that a woman cannot bear so much suffering on her own.
This is unfortunately a realistic story and the life of millions of women and children is not far from the one of Devi and her daughters Sapna and Asha. Harmful social practices still prevail in some remote parts of India and children are the first ones who suffer:
• More than 5,000 children die every day before their fifth birthday
• 61 million children are malnourished
• More than 600 million people defecate in the open
• 80 million children will never finish primary school
• 8.1 million children are out-of-school
• Out of the 1.3 million schools in India, more than 500,000 do not have any separate toilets for girls.
• More than 28 million children are working
• 43 per cent of women 20-24 were married before 18
• More than 70 per cent of adolescents girls are anemic
• 16 per cent of adolescents girls have begun child bearing
However, as an Indian proverb says: "there are always one thousand suns behind the clouds". And the IKEA Foundation -- UNICEF India partnership, active for the past 10 years in India, has already clearly demonstrated that we can achieve results at scale and create a better everyday life for the many Indian children.
Over the last ten years, UNICEF India and IKEA Foundation have strived to ensure that child rights are respected and fulfilled in every corner of India. Some tremendous results have already been achieved and shown that change is possible and is possible at a large scale. More than five million children are now breastfed within one hour of birth, 75 million children have received a vitamin A capsule, 32 million additional households have now a toilet, and more than 15,000 ex-child labourers are now going to school. Millions of children and adults including women like Devi and Asha have already benefited from our partnership.