Combatting the Menace of Child Marriage and Striving for Child Rights: Rumi’s Story

Combatting the Menace of Child Marriage and Striving for Child Rights: Rumi’s Story
Wednesday 28 November 2018
Rumi Kumari, a student of Kastuba Gandhi Balika Vidyalay (KGBV), Burmu, is all set to appear for her Board Examination for Class-XII.  Being a child of a bonded labour, life has not ushered in smooth roads for her. Sixth among eight of her siblings, her father was a bounded labour. In a bid to improve the economic conditions at home, Rumi’s parents had sent her to Patna to work as a domestic help. She was only 9-10 years old that time. From Patna she was trafficked to some other city. Her parents had sent her through some recruiting agent. Somehow she managed to come back from that life of ‘domestic help’, to her village. She subsequently got herself enrolled in the government run middle school in her village. But fate had something else in store for her; acute poverty had made her parents decide, to get her married at a very tender age of 14-15 years. Rumi opposed her child marriage as she had seen her elder sister suffer over the years. Her elder sister had got married at an early age and in less than a year she became a mother. Seeing her elder sister’s fate, Rumi was determined to fight back. Rumi came in contact with Save the Children programme in her area and got oriented on her rights as a girl, as a child. She reasoned with her parents vehemently and opposed her marriage. Finally, her parents relented. Rumi went a step ahead and made sure that her teenage brother too was not married off at the age of 16 in exchange for a dowry of Rs 3,00,000. She convinced her parents to allow her and her brother to continue with their studies.
With the, aim to study and achieve something in her life, she met the Block Extension Education Officer (BEEO) and got herself enrolled in the KGBV-Burmu. Presently she is a student of that school and is set to appear for her Intermediate Examination. Fighting all obstacles, she is not only the twinkle of eyes for her parents but also a quintessential factor for her school. Today, without Rumi and her decision making ability nothing seems to take place even in her school; be it arrangement for Republic Day programme or even organising the Basant Panchami Festival etc. Her teachers too are proud of her, not only because of the challenges that she has overcome but also because of her leadership ability. Her parents too boast of her ambition. Today both her parents feel sorry about their decision, that they were about to take, to get her married at an early age.
Save the Children conducts massive awareness drives in Jharkhand through its ‘Lalitha Babu’ module. We have been working towards the strengthening of Child Parliament in schools along with regularising the meetings of the School Management Committee. All these activities have proven to be helpful for children like Rumi as they are now determined to avail their rights. Her life skill training sessions with Save the Children has given her the strength to talk against both Child Marriage and Dowry system. It has also supported her in imparting capacity building orientation in Life Skills Education and has helped her taken initiative to develop the quality of education by supporting extra teachers in Spoken English, Computer Skills etc. Presently she is a Discussion Leader among her peer groups in school, on Life Skill Education. She dreams of becoming a Police officer, to maintain law and order in her state.
Rumi, has won the coveted Ashoka Youth Venture award for preparing hundreds of girls in her own area to raise their voice against child marriage. Post her board examination she plans to get herself enrolled under the Government of India’s flagship programme- Skill India Mission. There she will learn vocational skills that will help her make a meaningful living and also become part of the nation building process. Rumi has motivated six of her peers from her school to appear for their board exams and then be a part of the Skill India Programme., so that they too can learn the vocational skills without wasting their time or making their families prepare for their marriages.