An astonishing and agonizing figure shows that every second girl in India is married underage. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 47% girls in India are married before they attain the age of 18. Several statistics show that 140 million child marriages could take place by 2020 across various developing nations. This means more than 39000 child marriages would take every day.
It is this steady statistic that an eighteen years old Sangita Bauri wants to change. Sangita belongs to a very small and poor village in Purulia district of West Bengal. As a young child, Sangita was forced to work as a domestic helper. When Sangita was 12 years old, her parents and grandmother forcefully married her since she was the eldest girl child in the family. It was in the local child labour school that Sangita learnt that marriage of a girl before 18 years is illegal. After resisting her own marriage and persuading her parents to let her remain in school, Sangita went on to stop several child marriages in her village.
However, she had to face the ire of the local people for standing up against them. Undeterred with the criticism and fury, she kept on her struggle. Sangita has even enlightened the villagers about how child marriages lead to girl being confined in the vicious cycle of poor health, infant mortality, pregnancy deaths and even domestic violence. Sensing the detrimental effects of alcohol and how it has destroyed innumerable lives in her village, she started fighting a battle against alcoholism too. The village head supported Sangita in her effort to educate the village folks about how consuming excessive alcohol was bad for their health.
Sangita Bauri was also awarded for her heroic efforts and tireless crusade by the then President of India, Mrs. Pratibha Patil. She was also felicitated for her endeavours with a cash prize of Rs. 10000. Despite numerous challenges, she has promised that she would not let any child marriages happen in her village under her watchful eyes. Every month, Sangita and other hundreds of educated villagers initiate a campaign to create awareness among the villagers about the negative aspects of alcohol and the malpractice of child marriage and slavery. They even teach the villagers the need of education and how important it is for the girl child. Sangita’s battle against child marriage and alcoholism has drastically reduced the number of child marriages and deaths due to the consumption of spurious alcohol in the Purulia district.
Child marriage is banned under the law but still remains as the most violated fundamental human right for the girl child. However, in a developing country like India, it is still prospering because of age old traditions and customs. The social pressure and parental mindsets also play a vital role. Nevertheless, Sangita has paved a way for several girls who are forced to marry in their childhood. Our country needs more feisty and dynamic girls like Sangita. She has surely motivated and inspired lakhs of girls in the rural areas to revolt against atrocities violating their fundamental human rights. Sangita might just take baby steps but when someone steps out of the arcade tradition, there is no looking back.