Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Profile in Courage: 12-Year-Old Stops Child Marriages

The Hindustan Times, Kolkata Edition of 12th April has this report about little Rekha Kalindi.

“In a village with the lowest female literacy in the country,” says the report by Sanchita Sharma, “a 12-year-old bidi-roller has done what the government has been trying to do for years – stopped child marriage.

“Rekha Kalindi [12] has become a household name in her district for refusing to get married in November last year. “Since Rekha’s revolt, there’s has been no child marriage in the village,” said Prasenjit Kundu, Assistant Labour Commissioner, Purulia, West Bengal government. “Now all the girls want to be like her and some others, like Afsana Khatoon [13] from a neighbouring village, also said no.”

“Rekha seems an unlikely hero. The frail girl lives in a one-room home with seven others in Bararola village… Her home has no electricity, no running water and no toilet.”

Rekha who has never watched a film, says the report, spends their evenings collecting firewood and tendu leaves in the forest to sell at the weekly market in the nearby town seven kilometres away.

“Rekha belongs to the Kalindi tribe, a scheduled tribe in which girls are married at the age of 12. “My sister Jyotsna, now 15, got married at 12 and has already had four dead babies. She now lives with her second husband because the first one left her. Still, my parents wanted me to also get married but I said no, I want to study. They finally agreed,” said Rekha.” Though her father Jagdish Kalindi stopped her food, water and soap for some days, she stood firm and he finally came around.”

Rekha’s inspiration was the National Child Labour Project school she is attending.

I hope Rekha’s story inspires more children like her and more parents like her parents are converted to her views. Thanks Sanchita, for profiling Rekha’s courage before the world.


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