An 11-year-old girl has decided to start a movement against child marriages after her parents told her she will soon be married off. She enlisted other girls and teachers to raise awareness and protest child marriages.
Rekha Kalinda, 11, from Bararola, India decided to do something about child marriages once she heard her parents say she will soon be married off. She promptly said no. Rekha told The Christian Science Monitor:
"I was very angry...I told my father very clearly that this is my age of studying in school, and I didn't want to marry."
But her parents refused to change their minds until Rekha decided to enlist support from her teachers and government officials. Soon, her parents began to listen to officials' warnings about the dangers of child marriages.
Rekha didn’t stop then; she and other girls in her village talked to other parents and thanks to her efforts, there have been no child marriages in the surrounding villages.
Prosenjit Kundu, a government official, told the The Christian Science Monitor:
"Children are not taken seriously in families...A girl of 11.5 years who takes a decision for her own against the family members' will – this is an enormous, courageous act."
Rekha and other girls in her village are currently now supported by the National Child Labor Project, a UNICEF-funded organization that provides education, leadership training and advocacy for young girls in poor communities.
Recently, Rekha addressed a gathering of 6,000 beedi (an Indian cigarette) workers and asked them to allow their children to stay in school, and she told them to delay their marriages.
UNICEF is doing a similar program in the neighboring country of India, Bangladesh.
Rekha is an inspiration to her friends who are now emulating her and want to stay in school.
Sarah Crowe, a UNICEF Spokesperson, told The Christian Science Monitor:
"It's terrific how you get that ripple effect of one being brave, sticking her neck out ... and then others following."
Even the President of India is impressed with her efforts and said he wants to meet her.
Rekha is not against marriages -- she only wants to wait until after she turns 18 years old.