A girl stood up and began telling us how much our Girls First program had changed her life, giving her self-confidence to face her problems and challenges. When her mother came over she suddenly burst into tears and told us that her parents were planning to arrange a marriage for her in the next few months. She’s 14 years old.
We quickly brought mother and daughter into a separate room, our local coordinator facilitated a discussion, with the result that the mother made a promise not to marry her off. Our coordinator will follow up to see the family keeps to her promise.
I don’t know if it was our coordinator’s gentle reminder to the mother that underage marriage is illegal (though pervasive in these villages and many other parts of India), or the pressure of the filming. Either way, the critical point was this girl’s advocacy for herself, which is unheard of, and that someone was there to support her and take action. This girl made the choice on the spot to speak up and reach out, a life-changing (literally), empowering decision and rare occurrence in these parts particularly among the rural Dalit population.
Without the Girls First training its doubtful she would ever have come forward, nor would there have been anyone there to hear her cry for help, specially as there are no female teachers at the school. So very happy to see this even just a few short months into the program.