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“I never thought I would wear a uniform again!”

September 1st, 2021

Tanvi* is a happy school going girl in India. Studying in class 10, she is one of the most bright students in class; extremely outspoken and confident. To reach this stage, Tanvi had to undergo several challenges, and the path was far from easy.

“I was married before the age of 18 as my mother’s health was weak. She wanted to see me married before her death”, Tanvi recollects as she speaks of her marriage to her mother’s brother.

Soon after being wed, Tanvi had to drop out of school. Despite Tanvi’s insistence to continue her education, her family strongly opposed it. She was forcefully taken away to another village where her in-laws stayed. 

“Then Shailaja akka (IMAGE staff) met me and tried to get me to open up. Initially I was nervous, but she was extremely kind and comforting. I told her about all my problems”, she says.

Ms. Shailaja works for Terre des Hommes Netherlands’ IMAGE project as part of Rural Environmental Awareness Community Help (REACH), a project partner organisation. Counselling for empowerment is her passion, and in 2020, she was identified as one of the 20 changemakers under Deccan Herald’s ‘20 in 20’. In this feature, she was featured for her notable work in addressing child marriage issues and was shortlisted among Karnataka’s top citizens who have worked to pave the way for a better tomorrow.

Ms. Shailaja counselled Tanvi and spoke to her family about the need to continue her education. She also ensured that Tanvi was brought back to her village and would live with her husband only after she turned 18. 

“Every girl child has the right to education”, said Ms. Shailaja. “My vision is to work towards a secure life for girl children, where they can live their dreams”

Ms. Shailaja’s efforts are clearly visible in the life of young Tanvi.

“Talking to Shailaja akka has changed my life. I’m now back in school and back home. I never thought I would wear a uniform again in my life, but now I do that on every school day!”, Tanvi said with joy.

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