MAMTA Health Institute for Mother and Child

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Case study

Sunita Meghwal - Actions speak louder than words Sunita is a 21 year old girl from village Daglawda in Taleda block of Bundi district (Rajasthan). Presently, she is studying in 12th standard at the Government school at Bagda and is a real inspiration for all the youth as well as community. Tremendous credit goes to her for saving the life of four adolescents’ from becoming a curse. It was her courage to stand her ground against the family, relatives, community and age old traditions that made it possible to prevent the early marriages of the four adolescents in the village.

Sunita belongs to a poor family. Her father is a farmer and toils hard daily to make ends meet. Her mother helps her husband in the fields after her household chores. She has four siblings, two brothers and two sisters. One of her brothers is studying in 10th class. Another brother, Siyaram, aged 20 years, is pursuing ITI final year.

Both her elder sisters were married at the age of 15 and 17 years respectively as there is a trend of early marriage in her family. Her sisters were married away in spite of the fact that police tried to prevent the same. Her family members settled the matter by giving ransom to police which shows the rigidness of her family towards conforming to the norms related to marriage.

Amidst all this, Sunita came across ‘Swabhiman Kendra’ which has been a turning point in her life and has been an active member of Kendra since October 2015. Sunita attended sessions on life cycle approach of early and child marriage and its harmful impacts, Prohibition of Child Marriage Act and storytelling sessions which left an impression on her regarding the harms that come from early child marriage and the importance of informed decisions with regard to marriage. Sunita has been regularly participating in sessions and activities conducted by facilitating team of Swabhiman Kendra. Her brother, Siyaram, also joined Swabhiman Kendra from October 2016.

In May 2016, when Sunita came to know that her aunt from Theekarda village was planning to marry her 16 years old daughter (who had studied till class five only), Sunita utilized these inputs to persuade her aunt from Theekarda village to delay the marriage of her daughter. It also shows that the learning can be replicated through peer- involvement processes. Moving a step further, she convinced her family against the marriage of her brother Siyaram which was to be solemnized in May 2017 on the occasion of 'Akha Teej*'. Siyaram had got engaged in February 2017 with a 19 years old girl. Since the girl was pursuing last year of her B.Ed., Siyaram was not keen to get married then. He tried to convince his parents but did not succeed. Then he sought support of her sister Sunita. Sunita clearly told her parents not to marry her brother as he was still studying and, in fact, he was neither earning nor he had completed the legal age of marriage. She explained to them that his brother as well as his would-be-bride would not be able to complete their respective studies due to unwanted burden of responsibilities after marriage. Also, her brother would be able to reach the legal age of marriage if the marriage is delayed by one year. Thus, Sunita applied her learning of 'Swabhiman Kendra' with her parents again and succeeded in convincing them to delay the marriage.

Notwithstanding the pressure of her family, she has firmly expressed her decision to her parents that she would not marry till she has passed 12th standard. Sunita not only saved 4 lives from becoming a curse after early marriage, she is a strong girl and has dreams to fulfill.

* Akha Teej is considered auspicious by Hindus and Jains in many regions of India for new ventures, marriages, expensive investments such as in gold or other property, and any new beginnings. Any venture initiated on the auspicious day of Akshaya Trutiya is assumed to grow and bring prosperity.