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Janardan, Durga’s father, acknowledged, “I owe much to Durga, who freed me from societal norms promoting child marriage in our locality.”

In the poverty-stricken village of Purvi Thatha in Bihar, a young girl named Durga, at the tender age of 14, emerged as a beacon of change. Durga, hailing from a family grappling with financial struggles, was determined to break free from the shackles of societal norms that dictated the lives of the villagers.

Janardan Tanti, the father of this little girl, is a daily wage laborer. He toiled tirelessly to provide education to his daughters, even in the face of annual floods that disrupted livelihoods for months in the area. Despite their economic hardships, education remained a priority for Janardan. His eldest daughter, Laxmi (aged 17), was pursuing studies in Class XI, thanks to her father’s unwavering support.

However, societal pressures began to encroach upon Janardan’s decision-making when his aging mother expressed her desire to witness Laxmi’s marriage before she passes awat. Caught between honoring his mother’s wish and continuing Laxmi’s education, Janardan reluctantly leaned towards the prevailing social norms.

It was at this critical juncture that Durga, the younger and more worldly-wise sister, stepped into the spotlight. As an active member of an adolescent group formed under the Adolescent Empowerment Project, supported by Bal Raksha Bharat, UNICEF and Women and Child Development Corporation; Durga had imbibed the principles of critical thinking, decision-making and empowerment.

Guided by Vikash Mitra Mr. Subodh Kumar, a government functionary under the Mahadalit Mission, Durga actively participated in spreading awareness on child rights especially that of child labor and the laws against child marriage in her community. Her voice grew stronger and her convictions deeper, as she worked alongside the District Coordinator of the project in her community.

Durga’s world was shaken when she learned about her parents’ decision to marry off Laxmi, who was only 17 then. Undeterred, she vehemently opposed the decision, rallying support from fellow adolescent group members. Armed with knowledge of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, in India she took her sister’s case to the Panchayat head, Bulbul Kumari.

Her parents initially dismissed Durga’s concerns, hoping to sway her by invoking her ailing grandmother’s wish for their elder daughter’s marriage. However, Durga stood firm, unwavering in her commitment to protecting her sister from the chains of child marriage.

In a turn of events, the Panchayat (local self-government) head reprimanded Durga’s parents, invoking the Child Marriage Act. Janardan, moved by his daughter’s determination, reversed his decision and pledged not to marry off Laxmi until she completed her studies and pursued her life choices and ambitions.

And so, in the heart of Purvi Thatha, Durga’s courage became a catalyst for change, breaking the cycle of age-old practices and lighting the path towards a future where education and empowerment triumphed over societal pressures.

“Durga, practices what she preaches…her determination could make her speak even against the decision of her family and to guide them as per the law of the land…being her mentor I am really proud of her”; says a smiling Pragya Godwin her mentor

Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) is a flagship program of Government of India, that was launched by the Prime Minister on 22nd January 2015. The BBBP addresses the declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR) and related issues of women empowerment over a life-cycle continuum and aims towards empowerment of girls by sensitizing families and other stakeholders.

The Adolescent Empowerment Project (Udaan) also aims to ensure empowerment and development of adolescents focusing on strengthening, promoting community engagement, engaging boys and men to strengthen the BBBB campaign right up to the last mile. This initiative aims at facilitating linkages with social protection, strengthening child protection structures, building the agency of girls and providing a platform to adolescents to speak out and dialogue with policymakers

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