Sixteen year old Munija Khatun reads in Class X and lives with her parents Samsul Momin & Rumela Bibi in Mahisasthali village of Samshergunj Block of Murshidbad district. As Munija is a beautiful looking girl, on the way to school she often faced comments with sexual overtones. So Samshul thought it was better to get her married as early as possible to ensure safety. Thus it was decided that Munija would discontinue her studies and her marriage was arranged.
Munija was very upset and informed ASHA’s field representative about her father’s plan of getting her married. ASHA’s field representative took Munija to meet the women’s reflect circle members and shared with the women Munija’s problem. The women in the reflect circle had come together with support from ASHA and had become conscious of their rights through participation in awareness sessions and were determined to address social customs which discriminate girls and women. On the very next day the women visited Munija’s place and talked with her father. Her father explained why he was arranging the marriage, which was according to him for protection of Munija. The women opined that marriage was not a solution for the problem. Moreover marriage at an early age and depriving Munija from opportunities of school education was detrimental to her development. But Munija’s father was not at all ready to listen to the Reflect Circle Members. Munija also expressed her reluctance to get married strongly after feeling supported by the women.
Mean while the women of the reflect circle had a meeting with the boys involved in harassing Munija and pressurized the boys to stop such unacceptable behavior and warned them that if they did not pay heed to their advice they would report to police . The boys committed to the women to change their behavior and attitude. They also went with the women and assured Munija’s parents that Munija will never face this problem again. Samshul finally agreed to postpone the marriage. Now Munija is attending her school regularly and she is not facing any problem on the way to school.
Adolescent reflect circles support Tuktuki to prevent an early marriage
Fifteen year old Tuktuki Khatun lives in Kashimnagar village of Block Suti II in Murshidabad district with her father Moimul Sk, a daily labourer and mother Baby Bibi, homebased beedi worker. Her 17year old brother has migrated in search of work and two elder sisters are married. Tuktuki is Illiterate and she has never attended school. She helps her mother in beedi rolling. Her marriage was fixed with her maternal cousin on 12th December 2011.
Tohamina Adolescent Reflect Circle was formed with support from ASHA in 2009 as a forum for adolescent girls where they could discuss and learn about various health, nutrition & social issues affecting their lives and their rights and gain confidence to express their concerns/views. They had all learnt about the legal age for marriage, hazards of early marriage and legal provisions to prevent Child marriage. During the observation of International Fortnight to prevent Violence against Women & Girls, the reflect circle girls under leadership of Asnara Khatun had taken the pledge to make their village child marriage free. The circle had atken up the issues of promoting rights of girls to education and preventing child marriage as their priority issues. They were also supported by the Women Reflect Circle members in the village.
When the girls came to know of Tuktuki’s marriage they went to her house and circle Visit Tuktuki’s house and tried to explain her parents that their daughter is only 15year she is not physically and mentally fit for marriage. They also mentioned that organizing child marriage is punishable under the law. But her parents were very adamant and did not want to discuss anything with the girls. The members of Tohmina adolescent circle along with the women Reflect circle members again visited Tuktuki’s house. Baby Bibi on that day expressed that she was not in favour of the marriage at this point but her husband’s decision was final. Tuktuki also did not want to marry. Moimul Sk was not ready to discuss and listen to anyone.
After several attempts the adolescent girls realized that to stop this marriage, they need help from the police and District Social Welfare Office. The girls had already met the District Social Welfare Officer (DSWO) and Protection Officer at Baharampur during their Annual Sharing Meet and DSWO had given his number for contact in emergency. Asnara, the circle leader spoke to DSWO over phone about the situation and requested his help. On the very next day the Police came to the village and talked with Tuktuki’s parents. Subsequently the marriage was postponed.
(Association for Social and Health Advancement(ASHA) has been engaged over last eight years in addressing adolescent health, nutrtion& development issues and working for promoting adolescent rights and undertaking community/school based interventions for empowering adolescent girls and boys.I am sharing the stories of Munija, Tuktuki & Tohmina adolescent reflect circle who have been appreciated by the Honourable President of India on 17th January for saying no to CHILD Marriage.)