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Gutsy girls get a date with Prez

Gutsy girls get a date with Prez

Author: TNN
Publication: The Times of India
Date: May 16, 2009
URL: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/Gutsy-girls-get-a-date-with-the-Prez-/articleshow/4530978.cms

Introduction: Despite Poverty, They Fought Against Child Marriage

At a time when most children their age fight for a Playstation or a night out with friends, Sunita Mahto, Afsana Khatun and Rekha Kalindi put their foot down and refused to get married. Belonging to one of the most backward districts in the country or coming from poor families did not deter the gutsy girls.

Aged between 11 and 13 years, the trio were child labourers before they joined the district National Child Labour Project (NCLP). With nearly all children in her community getting married, Afsana's parents too fixed her wedding. "I didn't want to get married so early. I wanted to study and I told my parents that," Afsana said. Initially, she and others like Sunita faced resistance but eventually, with the help of teachers and peers, they were able to convince their parents.

On Thursday, the three girls met President Pratibha Patil, who praised them for their brave and courageous step. "These girls are a ray of hope for society. They are messengers of social change. One child marriage leads to ten other social evils, including malnutrition, lack of education. These social evils hurt not just the individual but also impact society and the nation," Patil said.

Having stood against convention, the bright-faced girls are now busy with studies and vocational courses. The youngest, Rekha, has even addressed a rally of 6,000 people talking against the practice of child marriage. "Since these girls were successful in stopping their marriage, there have been no incidents of child marriage in and around Jhalda, Purulia," Prosenjit Kundu, assistant labour commissioner, Purulia district, said.

The girls were treated to lunch at Rashtrapati Bhavan, besides a tour of the estate and Mughal Gardens. Patil also gave each of the girls Rs 10,000.

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