Girls who prevented child marriages in Indian villages are honoured by UNICEF

Child marriage

File photo by Eric Parker/

Nine girls in India have been honoured for their courage in standing up against child marriage.

They were given Navjyoty awards by UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) for resisting their families’ pressures to marry and helping other teenagers in remote villages.

One of them, 17-year-old Madhuri Ganesh Pawar, stopped 35 weddings in her village in the Jaina district of Maharashtra.

Seeing some of her classmates get married because there was no local school, she mobilised young people to persuade authorities to start a bus service to a nearby city.

Madhuri told The Hindu website: “I fought with my parents and continued my schooling but could not stop the marriages of the other girls.

“That is when I decided to do something. I studied government schemes and kept sending petitions to the government repeatedly for a bus to facilitate our education.” She also organised a protest and eventually the authorities relented.

After receiving her award in December, Madhuri added: “As a result, not a single child marriage has taken place this year.”

Another to be honoured was Roshna Maraskolhe, who stopped many underage girls from being married in Hiwarda village. When her relatives tried to arrange her own wedding in 2012, she threatened to call the police and send the groom to jail.

The Navjyoty awards are in their tenth year. They showcase the achievements of young women and the 2013 theme was early marriage. The nine recipients were all from Maharashtra state in western India.

A World At School believes that every child deserves an education – free from the barriers that prevent girls and boys from going to school, such as child marriage, gender discrimination or war.

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