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A CHILD’S RIGHT TO DREAM…

I want to study further and not be a child bride.

I am Rekha.

“I love my village Jaganuru in Chikkodi taluk of Belgaum district, Karnataka.  School meant learning, playing and enjoying my childhood. Suddenly when there were no classes for 7th grade and my friends and I were asked by our parents to get ready for marriage. We never

knew that non-availability of high schools would mean an abrupt end to our childhood. The nearest high school was almost 10-11 kilometers away! But marriage was defintely not my mind. My friends and I found strength in our children’s collective and decided to approach school authorities along with the CRY project MASS and demand for the upgradation of our school beyond class 8. Today we are back in school and we have great dreams for our future.”

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I read this story of a child from our project in Belgaum and started reflecting on my childhood. I sometimes look back on all the people who have shown faith in me- my parents, teachers, family, friends, and can count on many who came forward when I ne eded them, either with a kind word or a good deed.  It is only now, when I am older and wiser, I look around and spot those who haven’t had that kind of support, both in the privileged and underprivileged sections of society.  And the battle for acceptance seems an uphill one. But among the privileged, at least the basic structures remain – of food, clothing and shelter. I never had to fight to go to school – it was only a question of whether I was doing well or not.

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This past year, one of the advocacy wins was upgradation of 2 schools to high schools at Jaganur and Meerapurahatti in Chikodi taluk, Belgaum district. This fight was led by one of our feisty grassroot project leaders Shobha Gasti. She has, in the past, played a key role in resisting and eliminating the devdasi system in Belguam district.  We felt that Shobha and her team at Mahila Abhivriddhi Mathu Samrakshna Samsthe (MASS) were more than capable of handling the complex issue of child marriage. They  started dialogues on girl child empowerment, patriarchy, with different stakeholders- parents, panchayats, priests, scan centres  etc. Apart from this, they also asked for 3 high schools. After 3 years, 2 schools were upgraded. And the children from those villages attend schools. While the mindsets of the communities may not yet have fully changed, the children however, have an alternative to child labour and child marriage… and an opportunity to realise their dreams.

– Suma Ravi

The author is the Director (Southern Region) at CRY- Child Rights and You.

 

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