While doing our ongoing resilience training work in India, we were recently visiting a school in a rural village of Bihar, India. As we set up our cameras and recording equipment to do some filming, we sat with 50 girls and several mothers on the classroom floor and talked.
Confidence to stand up and advocate for change
A girl stood up and began telling us how much our Girls First program had changed her life. She shared that the CorStone program had given her the new found self-confidence to face her problems and challenges.
When her mother came over to listen to the conversation, the young girl suddenly burst into tears and told us that her parents were planning to arrange a marriage for her in the next few months. She was only 14 years old.
A life changing intervention
We quickly brought mother and daughter into a separate room where our local coordinator facilitated a discussion about the merits and risks of this marriage. The result led to the mother promising to all of us to stop the marriage. Our program coordinator will continue to follow up to monitor if the mother honors 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 that caused the mother to reconsider the decision to marry her daughter.
The outcome was that this girl had the courage and new skills to advocate for herself and force change when it was needed most. While this is an exception in this area of the world, it was no doubt helpful that we were there to support her with the courageous action that she took.
Support for change
This girl made the choice on the spot to speak up, reach out, and make an empowering decision to change her life. This type of self-directed action is exceptionally rare in the rural, female, Dalit population of India.A 14 year old stands up to forced marriage and changes her life | #GirlsFirst #CorStone Click To Tweet Without the GirlsFirst training, it’s questionable if this girl would have ever stood up or resisted her mother’s misguided decision to marry. It’s also clear that without a local program of support, no one would have heard her cry for help.