Excerpt from Sita speaks out to stop child marriage
When Sita learned that her friend Pooja was engaged to be married to a much older man, she had every reason in the world to do what was expected of her – nothing at all. But Sita is anything but what you might expect. This 11-year-old is among the top students in her class. She attends every meeting of the ChildFund club in her community, where she has learned about the importance of speaking up when a child is in danger. For her, silence was not an option.
Sita lives in the slums of Firozabad, the center of India’s booming glassmaking industry. Hundreds of children here are engaged in child labor, forced to miss school and work at home in hot, hazardous conditions to help their families make the glass bangles they depend on for income. A lesser known but equally rampant problem in the area is child marriage.
In India overall, 27 percent of girls are married before their 18th birthday – and 7 percent are married before the age of 15. As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, which has exacerbated poverty in already struggling communities, rates of child marriage in India are rising. Being married at a young age entails lifelong and dangerous risks for girls, often compromising their health, cutting their education short, and leaving them vulnerable to abuse.