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An inspiring teen stands up for her right to say no to child marriage

POSTED October 29, 2021

An inspiring teen stands up for her right to say no to child marriage

Watch Geetha take a stand for her future with the help of her community, Children Believe and our implementing partner

By Jessica Nguyen, digital coordinator, Canada

Geetha stands smiling in an orange and yellow outfit, smiling in front of a lake surrounded by greenery

Every day, girls drop out of school due to child marriage. Geetha, a teen from our India programs, was facing a similar fate when she stood up for her rights, saying no to child marriage (See video below).

The young student knew she could find help. “I am an active member of the village development committee as well as the youth club,” expresses Geetha in the video. “Every month we conducted meetings where we learned and discussed child marriage and other village-related issues. I was hopeful if I approached them, they would stop my marriage.”

Thankfully, with the help of Children Believe and our local implementing partner, Geetha’s marriage was stopped, and she continues to go to school and pursue her dreams. Better yet, her story sparked change in her community, ending local child marriages.

Many girls around the world aren’t as lucky. “The total number of girls married in childhood stands at 12 million per year,” reports UNICEF.

At Children Believe, our program partners work with women, girls, children and communities to end child marriage. We have intervention programs and equip communities with knowledge and tools to protect young people’s rights and promote healthy, inclusive spaces for learning.

Geetha’s story: a journey from (near) child bride to university student 

Geetha:

My name is Geetha, I live with my mother and father. I have an older sister who is married. My father works as a labourer, and my mother does seasonal work. She is usually at home when she can’t find any work.

Chinamma (Geetha’s mother):

My oldest daughter’s name is Latha. She finished Grade 6. When she reached puberty, at age 12, we had her marry, as we couldn’t afford to keep her in school. As per our tradition, we decided our younger daughter (Geetha) should marry as well.

Lavanya Kesavaraj:

Child marriages are very prevalent in Andhra Pradesh, particularly in the Bangarupalyam block, where we work. Most importantly, as we work with tribal communities, there is existing cultural practice of girls getting married early.

Sree Latha:

Many families think that it is not safe to send girls to other villages or other places for education. And when she (Geetha) was 15 years old, studying in 10th Grade, her family arranged a marriage for her.

Geetha:

I was very sad my parents forced me to drop out of school. I told my friends and teachers I did not want to get married, that I would rather study and continue my education.

I also sought help from my neighbours and sister to convince my parents to let me stay in school.

However, my parents didn’t listen to anyone and were determined to have my married, because I’m a girl.

I am an active member of the Village Development Committee as well as the Youth Club. Every month, we conducted meetings where we learned about and discussed child marriage and other village-related issues.

I was hopeful if I approached them, they would stop my marriage. So, I reached out to them for help.

Bharathi:

Geetha approached us and said: “I am not interested in marriage; they’re forcing me to get married, but I want to study.” Everyone in the village met to discuss this, and together we informed the Asha workers, the Angawadi workers and the Sarpanch about the planned child marriage for Geetha. Together, we stopped the marriage and sternly told Geetha’s parents that she should not be forced to marry at such a young age.

Sree Latha:

We have counseled the parents, and we re-enrolled the child (Geetha) in school in 10th Grade. After that, she continued her education. She is working as a volunteer
also, developing her own village, her own community.

Geetha:

Through this job, I want to do good things for the development of my village. I’ve mobilized and helped people by connecting them to relevant government programs and benefits they’re entitled to. I also chose this job to support my father financially.

Lavanya Kesavaraj:

Children Believe and our program partners have been engaged [in] working with communities, with young people, women and girls. Through various interventions, there are 50 or more villages that have absolved the practice of child marriages. There are several agents of change — girls emerging as agents of change. One such example is Geetha.

Geetha:

All girls should stand on their own two legs, know their rights and be able to continue their education. This is a suggestion I would like to give to every girl.

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ABOUT CHILDREN BELIEVE:

Children Believe works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. For 60+ years, we’ve brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists. Together, we’re driven by a common belief: creating access to education — inside and outside of classrooms — is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.

About ChildFund Alliance:

A member of ChildFund Alliance, Children Believe is part of a global network of child-focused development organizations working to create opportunities for children and youth, their families and communities. ChildFund helps nearly 23-million children and their families in 70 countries overcome poverty and underlying conditions that prevent children from achieving their full potential. We work to end violence against children; provide expertise in emergencies and disasters to ease the harmful impact on children and their communities; and engage children and youth to create lasting change and elevate their voices in decisions that affect their lives.