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Mala’s mistakes do not define her

May 1st, 2022
Mala’s mistakes does not define her

For many children around the world, making a mistake is part of a learning process. These mistakes are often made in low-stakes scenarios and do not define the rest of their lives - it also does not define their parents. Learning from your own mistakes is also a major part of childhood.

Unfortunately for Mala, when she was 17, she made a mistake that had a significant impact on her life. As a girl growing up in the state of Karnataka, India, Mala’s risk of marrying young was already high - due to poverty and traditions that are accepted for adults. 

She fell in love with a boy in her neighbourhood and agreed to marry him after she finishing her education. However, she decided (along with the boy) to elope. After four months of being away from home, they were found and rescued.

In a traditional society, this situation was particularly difficult for Mala’s parents. Her parents struggled, with her father turning to alcoholism. They were upset and decided that she should live with her in-laws. Experiencing the same shame, Mala’s in-laws also did not take their early marriage well and abused her in their home.  

“No one was there to support me. I felt alone, neglected and I lost all hope of leading a happy and prosperous life”, said Mala. 

In such a hopeless situation, early married girls such as Mala often accept their fate and expected role as servants to their in-laws or their own family. However, she was identified by the IMAGE Next project to share her problems and be involved in skill programmes. Through much counselling between staff, Mala, and her in-laws, her life started to change.

This Terre des Hommes Netherlands project had been operating in India for many years. Early married girls such as Mala can express their concerns and hope for their future. Through the programme, her husband and in-laws learned about child abuse and the importance of education. Through their support, Mala was able to take a pre-university exam and be admitted to a nursing college.

“My spouse is very supportive and helps me in continuing my studies. I will complete the nursing course and be ready to serve people. I will also continue my work to provide awareness against child marriages”, she added.

The IMAGE Next project also provides leadership training to empower girls in marginalised communities. Upon participating in these trainings, Mala gained confidence and became a youth advocate for Terre des Hommes. She educated other early married girls in her community and even supported the organisation’s staff during the COVID-19 pandemic by identifying people who needed health support and food. 

“I know I made a big mistake. My parents had dreams for me and wanted to provide a good education for me. But, at that time, I was not in the position to make the right decision that was needed for my life. I married my husband. I struggled a lot. Like me, many girls make wrong decisions at a young age. I am grateful to have gotten timely guidance and support. This has helped me reach a good position in life. I am where I am today because of the IMAGE Next project”, Mala ended.

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