Swathi (name changed) a rag picker, now 14, belongs to a small village in Karnataka, called Kalakhamb, had never been to school until an NGO called Salesion Sister of Don Bosco (SSDB) came out to help underprivileged children like her. They convinced her parents to let her go to school meanwhile giving shelter to her in Vadagaon.
She was bright a student and promoted to class five within a single year of her stay. During her school days, she played the role of a child protection officer in a street play based on child marriage.
The lessons from the play seemed to have stayed with her because when she returned home to Kalakhamb village in Belagavi Taluk, she implied them in her life. Her parents had fixed her marriage to a suitor from Hunchenatti village.
Swathi, rebelliously refused to get married to him at such a young age of 12. She returned back to her boarding school and ignored visiting her parents for the next few months. However, two years later she faced the same pressure when she came back.
This time, Swathi gave a hard-hitting reply. She just didn’t refuse for marriage, but also used anti-marriage law in her defense. She threatened them. Getting her married as a minor could them land in jail for five years. They may have to pay a fine of up to Rs. 1 lakh for forcing her.
When her parents took her to the panchayat, she convinced everyone about the illegality and downfalls of child marriage.
In doing so, she has also inspired her siblings and relatives to give up this practice. Her elder cousin refused marriage to a girl, still a minor and her cousin sister has also refused to get marriage, early.
This young woman sure has a bright future waiting to be rewarded for choosing the brave road.