Gumla girl wins battle against child marriage


K A Gupta, TNN GUMLA: For 17-year-old SaraswatiKumari life was never a cakewalk. She lost her father early in life and lived with her relatives in a joint family who decided to marry her off when she was only 15. She was studying in Class IX then at Bhagat High School in Gumla. Today, Saraswati has come a long way fighting many odds to become an iconic figure representing the state at youth Summit in Delhi. She was selected a youth icon by Unicef - Jharkhand for her fight against child marriage. ''The conclave has given me a zeal to set examples for girls who are being oppressed against their will," said Saraswati who is now an intermediate student in KartikOraon College in Gumla.   As a child reporter (balpatrakaar), she also delivered a powerful presentation against adolescent marriages at a state-level meet organized by Unicef in presence of Jharkhand governor, Syed Ahmed last year.Two years back when her family members in Rukki under Ghagra block wanted Saraswati and her brother to visit them for marriage talks, she decided against it. Instead of going to her native village she met the then Gumla DC Rahul Sharma and sought help.Hearing her predicament, the DC took her to the district social welfare officer and Child Welfare Committee in Gumla.   "I called her family members and told them that she was not an adult and should not be forced to marry. They were also told that if they put pressure on hetr, legal action will be initiated against them," recalls Gumla CWC chairman Shambhu Singh. Soon her family members relented but refused to support her financially any longer, he added. "But that too did not deter me. Since I had learnt stitching at a private tailor shop at Ghaghra while studying in Gumla School, I started sewing clothes for our neighbours. I also called my mother from Ghagra while my brother began giving tuitions in nearby localities here, Saraswati said. Her efforts paid well and she was soon selected as a youth icon for her exemplary courage and struggle. "The objective of the Delhi meet was to identify adolescent girls and women who have done exceptional work in different areas. She did exceedingly well at the summit," said MeiraDawa, advocacy and communication officer with Unicef, Jharkhand.