//Tribal girls stand up against child marriage

Tribal girls stand up against child marriage

Sify news / 18 January , 2006

New Delhi: They may not have come of age, but these innocent girls showed exemplary courage and determination to stand up against evils of child marriageTwelve-year-old Chanigalla Susheela of Andhra Pradesh and Dugi alias Minati Gagaral (14) of Orissa have been given the National Bravery Award for revolting against the practice of child marriage.

Showing remarkable courage, Susheela, who was married to a 22-year-old man against her wishes and refused the right to continue schooling, demanded a formal annulment of the marriage under the supervision of the panchayat. She approached volunteers from the MV Foundation and the village panchayat convincing them to support her.

A meeting was convened on June 12, 2005 and the marriage was annulled under the supervision of the panchayat. Susheela’s courage inspired 30 other girls in the area to dissolve similar marriages. Unable to understand a word of Hindi or English, Susheela, who is in the Eighth standard, smiled shyly as she was introduced along with 16 other awardees to the media.

"I want to study and become a teacher," she said in Telugu when asked about her ambition in life. Similar is the tale of Minati who was pressurized by a 50-year-old man to marry him.As per Adivasi custom, her elder brother did not allow her to stay in her parents house thereafter and even threatened to kill her.

However, diminutive Minati refused to accept the aged man as her husband and stood up against the Adivasi custom and child marriage. She left the house and stayed in the forest for two to three days without food. Then, with the help of locals, she reported the matter to police Under the protection of a local NGO, the Oriya girl plans to become a master craftsperson.

When asked what she planned to do with the prize money she would get along with the bravery award, Minati said "I will study." An unlettered, the girl is currently being taught to read and write.