The work of Terre des Hommes Netherlands in India does not only focus on preventing child marriage, but also supporting victims. One of these victims was Aradhya, a 17-year-old girl who was married two years ago in Chikkaballapura district.
Her parents were daily-wage labourers and lived in a vulnerable condition with irregular income. After her sister's marriage, her parents had thought about marrying her off. Within a year of marriage, she lost her husband due to severe health issues and was deserted by her in-law's family.
This was a devastating experience for Aradhya where she lost all of her hope in life. She said, “I was anxious and very negative. I didn’t see any hope. I didn’t have any confidence”.
Through the IMAGE project’s surveys, Aradhya was identified in her community and was registered as an early married girl. After registration, the team approached her to participate in a children’s club. The team also decided to provide her counselling and involve her in recreational activities to overcome the anxiety and fear. The counselling sessions gradually helped her regain the confidence and courage to face the challenges in her life. The personal counselling sessions and opportunities to mingle with others helped her to build confidence and improve her life skills.
Aradhya was trained on child rights, child protection laws, and learned about ill-effects of child marriage. She also participated in virtual leadership meetings.
Presently, she has taken the responsibility to spread the awareness about child marriage and its ill effects of it in her village. She added, “I am very happy now and I have a life to live. My parents were forcing me to get married once again. But I have strongly informed them I will not do so. I want to become independent and evolve skills which will help me make a living. I want to secure a good job, afterwards, I will think about being married again”.
Aradhya is now a spokesperson in her village and her own child club. She takes responsibilities to prevent child marriage by frequently visiting other clubs of children and early married girls in her village to share her personal experience of how it can ruin a girl’s life.
Aradhya is one of many early married girls who are changing the narrative in their communities. By knowing their rights to education and protection from abuse through TDHNL’s support, these empowered children are now spreading words of wisdom at such a young age.