On a bright sunny morning of July 3rd 2022, 16-year-old Pragya* from Palya village of Chamarajanagar district, Karnataka, passed her 10th standard with good grades in all subjects. After receiving her mark sheet from school she walked home swinging her two long braids, excited to share the happiness with her parents. Little did she know her parents had other plans for her.
A few days later, Pragya’s parents went to her school and asked the administration for her transfer certificate. The teacher inquired about their reason for making Pragya drop out of school but her parents hesitantly smiled and left with the certificate. The teachers suspected something was wrong.
2 days later on 13th July 2022, a nearby Primary Health Care Centre doctor heard from Pragya’s neighbours that her parents were getting Pragya engaged in the coming week. The doctor immediately called our IMAGE* (Initiatives for Married Adolescent Girls Empowerment) staff as he was well aware of the work the project was doing to stop child marriages.
After receiving the call, Ms Lalitha, and our IMAGE Staff immediately rushed to Pragya’s house along with the school teachers, PHC doctor and Anganwadi workers. Pragya’s parents at first blatantly refused any such “rumour” and covered it up by saying they were planning to conduct a pooja (spiritual ceremony) at home. But after persistent claims by the community members, they accepted their plans for Pragya’s engagement.
The IMAGE staff told them about the legal consequences of doing so and shared the ill effects of child marriage. They were also counselled on letting Pragya complete her studies. The parents gave a written agreement stating that they would postpone the engagement till Pragya turns 18.
Pragya is happy to be re-enrolled in school and excited to score well once again.
*Name changed to protect the identity
*IMAGE works to empower the victims of child marriages while preventing further child marriages in 15 districts of Karnataka, India.
By Vaishnavi Gupta, Senior Communications Associate