JAIPUR: Priya Jangid, 15, a resident of a dusty village in Alwar, India, had refused to become a bride at the age of 10. And in the five years that followed, she has instead become a crusader against child marriage in her village, reported Times of India.
Helped by Nobel Laureate Kailash Sathyarthi’s organization, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, Jangid is the most visible face fighting this social evil in Hisla village of Alwar.
On Wednesday, the International Day of the Girl, she held public meetings and spread the message that “child marriage is a sin and the girl child a blessing”. Having met former US president Barack Obama and wife Michelle Obama in Sweden in 2015 as part of a delegation with Sathyarthi, she has earned fame and become a ‘celebrity’.
“The celebrity status helps. People hear us with more conviction,” said a confident Priya who is now a Class XI student. She recalled the series of events that brought her to this point in life, which otherwise would have left her as a child wife.
The news that she was going to be married off along with her elder sister came as shock to her one day when they arrived home from school. Living in an orthodox patriarchal society, she had realized that women have no say in marriages. “I was tense and had tears in my eyes. I was worried not because of my marriage but the fact that I didn’t even know how to cook well. Child marriage was a norm and I was aware that this news would one day come to me anyway,” said Priya.
She went to her school to inform friends and teachers about her marriage, unaware that this would change her life. Her teacher then alerted Bachpan Bachao Andolan members who rushed to the school and spoke to Priya. “For the first time, I heard that the child marriage was illegal and my father could go to jail. I again met the andolan volunteer the next day. She explained to me about five hours about the problems that I would face by marrying at an early age,” said Priya, who alerted her elder sister also.
She gathered courage and spoke to her father. But he refused to break the marriage. “It took me some days to convince my father who agreed to speak to my grandmother. Initially, she was adamant but after some days, the appeal worked. Our marriage was called off barely a few days before the event,” said Priya, who was still unaware that destiny had planned a role as a change-maker for her.
The news spread like wildfire and the family was looked down upon by other villagers. “It then came to my mind that I should start discussing the ill-effects of child marriage to families that I know. I started visiting them and became accepted. My visit to the US changed the people’s perception about me and my villagers took the pledge not to solemnize child marriages,” said Priya, who has formed the Chhatra Sansad (student parliament) to discuss issues relating to her village and nearby ones. Recently, she raised the issue of shortage of teachers by mobilizing villagers and the district adminstration to appoint them.