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A campaign against child marriage

In India, an estimated 47 percent of girls are married before the age of 18; putting their physical, emotional and mental health at risk. Although it is illegal in India for girls under 18 and boys under 21 to marry, the tradition remains entrenched.

ChildFund India has been working with three partner organisations in the state of Madhya Pradesh, which has one of the highest rates of child marriage in India, to help children gain the confidence they need to stand against early marriage.

Village monitoring committees have been formed, made up of community elders and youth club members. These committees act as watchdogs in the community to prevent early marriages. Additionally, ChildFund India recently launched Anmol Jeevan, a 100 day awareness-raising campaign, that occurred across 75 villages.

At the inaugural event of the campaign, youth members who had been active in the fight against child marriage were recognised before local government officials and thousands of community members who were there to support the cause.

One of the youth members recognised at the event was 17-year-old Sonam, who received an award for actively addressing the issue of early marriage and for also standing up against her own marriage.

“ChildFund has changed my life €” it came in as a ray of hope and has given me the courage to dream about my future,” she said while accepting the award.

When her parents decided that she was ready to be married, Sonam and her youth club came together to speak to her parents. Sonam shared that she did not want to get married before reaching the legal age of marriage and also wanted to study longer to achieve her dreams. After a lot of persuasion, they were able to convince Sonam`s parents. Now, with their support, she is preparing for her exams, with plans to become an engineer and help her village.

Sonam has been involved with ChildFund India since day one of the project. She has actively participated in several of ChildFund`s programs, including awareness camps and meetings on early marriage. She also encourages mothers to get their children immunized and provide nutritious food. She has also been actively promoting literacy in her village by doing door-to-door counselling, visiting schools and getting children of her village enrolled in local schools.

“If convinced properly, parents will support their daughters` wishes to study instead of getting them married at an early age,” says Sonam.

And when they do, these girls will be able to make enormous contributions within their own communities, just as Sonam has.

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