Training unshackle girls from child marriage woes

Divorced, widowed or abandoned: this is the case of most of the 16-year-old girls that you meet in Doddinduvadi village in Kollegal taluk of Chamarajanagar district. Unlike other girls, about 15 girls from this village, who are the victims of child marriage, have a story of optimism to share. PTI file photo for representation only

Divorced, widowed or abandoned: this is the case of most of the 16-year-old girls that you meet in Doddinduvadi village in Kollegal taluk of Chamarajanagar district. Unlike other girls, about 15 girls from this village, who are the victims of child marriage, have a story of optimism to share.

Rashmi (name changed), (16) was married to a 25-year-old man when she was barely 12 years old. A year into her marriage, her parents asked her to seek a divorce, due to the boy’s questionable character. The girl’s family even paid a sum of Rs 50,000 as compensation, as the divorce was initiated from their side. Rashmi is now studying for her upcoming 10th standard exam, in March 2019. “I have attained freedom now. I have learnt to put these things behind me. I want to be independent and be able to lead my life as I wish,” she said with much pride.

Aspiring to become a doctor or a bank manager, her first target is to perform well in the SSLC examination. “I wake up at 4.30 am everyday and study for four hours,” said Rashmi, holding out her Kannada and Social Science notebooks for some of the reporters to see.

The story of Shivamma (name changed), (16) is much worse, as her husband abandoned her a month after marriage. “We came to know that he has married another woman and living with her in another village,” she said. She had attempted suicide when she had learnt about it. But today, Shivamma is learning knitting and also to design beaded edges (saree kuchu) for sarees that help her earn her livelihood.

Most of these girls claim that they have attained ‘bidugade’ (freedom) from the marriage, and they vow not to let the same happen to their younger sisters. Unlike other villages, this is one of the villages in Kollegal taluk where the parents have initiated divorce from troubled marriages, as against others who continue to be married despite having problems. Some parents have even taken loans from moneylenders to pay off the compensation at the earliest.

Most of these girls are now appearing for the SSLC examination, which will be held in March 2019. They are also pursuing skill-based training courses, such as tailoring, computer education and weaving design beads for sarees etc, conducted by Initiative for Married Adolescent Girls’ Empowerment (IMAGE). The girls can earn up to Rs 300 for every saree that they design. Most of these girls have vowed to focus on their careers and focus on marriage, only after becoming independent.

Father Adiss Arnold, a representative of IMAGE, said, “Their indomitable spirit is infectious. When we see these girls in this village, we feel that our efforts are somewhere bearing fruits, one girl at a time. That keeps us going to protect and empower girls who don't see the brighter side of life.”

 

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Training unshackle girls from child marriage woes

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