“I was worried about being married at an early age and stopping my education but thanks to my friends, Childline, and Terre des Hommes for putting a stop and convincing my parents on how education is important and sending me back to school”.
Samitha almost got married at the age of 17 during the COVID-19 pandemic. In India’s Belagavi state, early child marriage and sex work are practices in response to poverty. With the pandemic’s new normals, families are pushed further into poverty, leaving them hopeless and finding other ways to survive.
For Samitha’s father and brother who are daily wage labourers, it was a struggle to make enough money for the family. Poverty pushed Samitha’s parents to arrange her marriage before reaching her adulthood. With her marriage, she would live in her husband’s home and her parents would no longer need to provide for her.
Terre des Hommes’ Project Children Empowerment for GOOD had been operative in Samatha’s village since 2019. Through partners such as the AMMA Foundation, life skill training and educational sessions about child rights are provided to children such as Samitha and their parents. These children create communities called Kishori Groups where they share their experiences and speak against child marriage, abuse, and sexual exploitation.
Samitha shared her fear of being dedicated to sex work, child marriage, and stopping her education. Terre des Hommes’ project staff encouraged and trained her on various rights which made her open up and speak confidently and support her peers in the group. Using these skills and with the support of TDH’s staff, her parents understood the importance of her education.
Presently, her family is being closely monitored and provided with moral support. Her parents have agreed to send her to college to continue her education.
Samitha is an active participant and is very interested in supporting her community in stopping child marriages. With the necessary training and support, she will be a change agent for her group and her community.
Samitha said, “I would have been a victim of child marriage if I had not been part of the Children GOOD project. I am very happy to be a part of this group and it helped me understand how child marriage and religious systems destroys a girl’s life. I have also been trained on my rights.
“I am attending Kishori group meetings regularly and involving myself actively. I’m very happy to see how my friends are supporting me in my education”