“I studying in Government primary school after class – VIII all my classmates dropped out from school except three [two belongs from upper caste and one from other backward caste (OBC)]. I grownup in the place near to this area and found that the children of the 99% of the families are not going to the school. We selected this slum and working here for last 14 years and now young generation are leading their own campaign and ITE(Integrated Technology Education) are integrating in the process. This is the model of the hope based on the resilience against the culture of silence for India in particular and South Asia in general”, Says, Lenin Raghuvanshi, founder and CEO, PVCHR.
The three young girls Chanda, Jyoti and Pooja of Munshi Prem with the support of other children of Chandra Bal Panchayat, Baghwanala, Varanasi flagged a campaign ‘Will not do kitchen, I want to get educate” campaign against child marriage in 2010. They are the first generation among their family.
The inspirations of these girls were the activists of child right centric model villages and teachers of the non – formal education center (NFE) initiated by Jan Mitra Nyas/PVCHR with the support of the Child Rights and You (CRY), support from Ashoka fellowship through Lenin Raghuvanshi and later by Sir Dorabji Tata Trust (SDTT). The NFE centre was inaugurated by PVCHR patron Justice Z.M Yacoob, Sitting Judge Constitution Court of South Africa & Chancellor of University of Durban, South Africa. Process of child theatre against child marriage for right of girls made them to understand the consequence of the child marriage. These three sit together and discussed Mere sath hota toh mai kya jarti (If these things happened with me than what I will do) they know that it is not only the girl child who bears the consequences of early marriage but it equally impacts the lives of those around them.
They lit the campaign from opposing their own children marriage but also prevent other to do so. They are creating awareness in their area through meeting of Bal Panchayat, street march, open letter, signature campaign, slogan, distributing promotional materials and showcasing their theatre play Sindhoor nahi Sikha, which shows the demerits of the child marriage.
They vigil in there are and after getting information of Manisha child marriage they immediately called joint meeting of Munshi Premchandra Bal Panchayat and Kishori Baithak and called Manisha parents. After having long discussion Manisha’s parents agreed to send Manisha to her in-laws house after she attains the age of 18. But next day Manisha husband forcefully took her to his house.
When these girls came to know about this incident, they went to Manisha’s in-laws house and argued them sent back Manisha to her parent house. After a long discussion they agree to bring Manisha back after she attains the age of 18. After this no child marriage is happening in Baghwanala
The journey was not easy for them they faced several problems to break this deep routed evil which have become a part of Indian society for several centuries. They faced challenges and resistance from their own relatives, community and parents of their friends. Mere phupha bole ki yeh dusro ke mamle mein bol rahi hai isliye ham log iski shadi class 10 ke bad kar denge. (My uncle said she is speaking in the matter of others so, we will do her marry after class 10). The parents of my friends were not allowing to send them because they think there child will also “Yeh log bahut bolti hai aur man ki badhi hai tum logo ke sath rahkar hamari ladki kharab ho jayegi” (These girls speak a lot and are open minded. my daughter will ruin after coming along with you). The people from there area torn the poster and washed the slogan written on the wall “Bal vivah band karo) stopped child marriage but few people in the community supported by signing the petition.
The Manish’s father came to Chanda’s mother shop and threatens her “Apni ladki to samjha dijiye nahi toh ham usko uthwa lenge” (Make your child understand otherwise we will kidnap her.
These hurdles were not sufficient to stop the mission of these three girls without any fear they continued their struggle. They performed the street play not only in Baghwanala but also in many different places showing high rate of child marriage.
In personal life these girls are running pillar to post for their survival and working hard to complete their vision to be on the responsible post for eradicating social evil, says Jyoti. Pooja wants to become teacher for giving valuable education to the next generation. Now they are studying in B.A – II year from Uday Pratap College, Varanasi with the scholarship awarded from Raj Dulari Foundation, Sweden and Ms. Parul Sharma.
Their daring initiative was honoured with Savitri Bai Phule Memorial Award, Marwadi Youth Committee also honored them in the presence of Sri D. K. Thakur, Deputy Inspector General of Police of Varanasi Zone, famous industrialist Sri Jhunjhunwala was present at the occasion. Ms. Chanda honoured with HT Judges Choice Award and her profile published in India today. The Hindustan daily Hindi newspaper honoured initiative by inviting them as one day editor guest.
Now they are receiving well support from the community, parents of their friends. Their mission worked as many parents stopped doing child marriage and providing opportunity to their girls for further study and provide space for their right to expression. Now not only three but other 19 children joined in their mission. It is extraordinary inculcating process to curb down the concept of masculinity, which is decreasing the violence in families and community too. Now with the support from SDTT ITE initiative started and Smart phone for education concept of Henrik, Germany are in process for next milestone of empowerment. The children learned video documentation from their own voice of India.
Shruti says, ‘when we initiated the school first teacher gave resign and then we appointed a women teacher who faced domestic violence in her life. We initiated adult literacy, campaign against police torture and the illegal activities by the criminal in that area. Whole process in the grass – root are mostly implemented by the women activist and responsible men for women rights so, a gender perspective is very strong in process against the existing concept of masculinity.’
Now in Baghwanala three centres built with support from German Ministry NRW via GIZ GmbH, Indo – German Society of Remscheid, Germany, dalit team, Remschied, Germany and Jan Mitra Nyas
- Women centre for women was built after the donation of land by Ms. Urmila Singh (mother of Ms. Shruti Nagvanshi)
- Community center and office for the weaver the land was donated by the community
- Raja Suhail Dev Jan Mitra Sikshan Kendra was donated by the community.
Their success story got published in India Today, Times of India, Hindustan Times, Amar Ujala, Sanskar Magazine, Beyond Headline, Inqualab urdu newspaper etc.
Story is written by Shrirn shabana Khan, Program Director, PVCHR with input by Shruti Nagvanshi, Puja and Jyoti