Family members pressurised them to get married. In spite of begging for help, no one came to their rescue. And when they were still unmoved, kidnapping attempts were made. They were even beaten and verbally abused. But they still didn’t lose confidence and raised their voice against child marriage.
Two progressive girls, Saniya and Sarmistha, from a backward area in Rayagada district made all the above mentioned attempts and succeeded in preventing it. Saniya, who nowadays is putting up at a shelter home, is preparing for Plus II exams, while Sarmistha is preparing for her 10th Board exam, at home.
Sarmistha was awarded for her bravery during the Foundation Day celebration of Odisha State Child Protection Society in Bhubaneswar recently.
“I don’t want to marry now. I will study and stand on my feet first and only then I will think of marriage,” Saniya had said to the Child Welfare Committee. Saniya’s story of escape from getting married forcefully is an example of what girls from backwards areas have to face and how they are fighting against forces that are stopping them from growing up to their full potential and pushing them into the institution of marriage even before they attain legal age of marriage in India.
Three months are still left before she turns 18, but Saniya’s family members have in the meantime, tried to getting her married twice. In spite of all her protests, not only her family keeps insisting but even her prospective groom has tried to kidnap her.
Saniya was studying Plus II at Manikeswari College in Kashipur but after her marriage was fixed she was not allowed to go to college. She was supposed to get married on May 7, 2019, to a man from Gumar village under Boipariguda block in Rayagada. The family was busy preparing for marriage when the authorities of Child Line reached her home and advised the family members not to get her married before the age of 18. But that didn’t deter her family members. In fact, it is said that Saniya’s family members had suggested her future groom to kidnap her. On the pretext of attending a relative’s marriage, Jiten Gouda asked her to him to Rayagada. While they were travelling in an SUV with four other persons, Saniya pretended that she was feeling sick and wanted to vomit, so they stopped the vehicle. Once shea was out of the vehicle, she started shouting for help. Saniya was rescued by people of a nearby village who later informed the police. Now, she is at a shelter home and the 5 accused have been arrested and the vehicle seized.
Sarmistha too, like Saniya grabbed headlines for fighting against child marriage. A native of Badabangi village under Ramanguda block, she was to be given away in marriage in June, after her Matric exam this year, at the age of 16, to a person from Gudari. When she learned about it, Sarmistha protested but didn’t succeed, so she spoke about it to Anganwadi worker Jamuna Mandangi. And following the advice of Jamuna, she succeeded in getting the attention of Child Line through Ramanguda CDPO Santilata Rath. The Child Line authorities reached her home and succeeded in convincing her family not to perform her marriage.
The district administration praised Sarmistha for her courageous attempts to stop her marriage and also informed the Child Development Department about the bravery of this girl from a backward area and for which she was felicitated by Child Development Minister Tukuni Sahu in Bhubaneswar.