Kiran, a girl from Purulia, who fights child marriage

A photo essay

Demissew Bizuwerk
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UNICEF/UN0276232/Boro

20 February 2019

Across India, girls are mobilizing other girls, schools, and communities to create a social network empowering them to raise their voices against any child rights violation, including child marriages. Kiran is among them and here is her story:

 

 

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On India’s National Day of the Girl Child, 12th-grader Kiran Bauri and 500,000 other girls and women poured onto the streets in Purulia District, West Bengal, India and joined hands to form a 348 km long human chain. The chain started at the centre of town and extended beyond as more and more young women joined. They were sending out a strong message that girls “belong in school” not in a marriage.

 

 

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“I don’t understand why girls are considered as burdens to their families. This is not right, it must change,’’ says Kiran, an advocate for girls’ rights in her local community.

A student, Kiran grew up seeing many young girls getting married at an early age and dropping out of school. Now she’s on a mission to change this.

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Kiran has been vocal about equal rights for every girl and believes that all girls should study and stand on their own feet. Last year, when she discovered that her best friend was forced into marriage, she reported the case to the police without, she says, fearing any backlash. Her best friend is now studying in college.  Kiran is an active member of the Kanyashree Club (local adolescent club), set up jointly by the Purulia District Administration and UNICEF, as part of their Adolescent Empowerment Programme.

 

 

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Kiran is popularly known as the “pad girl” because she does not hesitate to show others how to use pads.

“Sanitary pads ensure more freedom of movement, dignity, and safety for girls,” she says.

Cloth pads were traditionally used and reused by girls in the past but now most of them prefer to use sanitary pads which are easily available at their school, Hutmura Harimati Girls High School, where Kiran distributes sanitary pads from the school’s vending machine and encourages girls to feel confident about their bodies. Kiran actively speaks about issues that affect girls, including child marriage, with support from her teachers and school authorities.

 

 

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“My daughter is studying hard every day. I always see her with her books. I hope her dreams will come true,” says Kiran’s father Chandicharn Bauri. Mr. Bauri along with Kiran’s mother, Chandana Bauri, are very “proud of her education” and would like to see her go to college.

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“I love solving problems. Lawyers solve problems and there are many problems which need to be solved in our community. I want to become a lawyer,” says Kiran. She is studying hard for her board exam (All India Senior School Certificate Examination) due in February 2019.

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With clothes piled on a wooden rack and a small table and chair on the corner, Kiran’s small study room is where she is preparing herself for the national exam. Time is racing against her. She needs to cover all the topics and read all the reference books.

 

 

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Every afternoon before the sun kisses the horizon, Kiran comes to a balcony, her favorite place in the house, to gather her thoughts and reflect on what she has been studying. In the future when she is settled and have a family, she knows what to do to in case she has a daughter. “I would be friends with her and guide her in every possible way for her to succeed,” Kiran says. 

But for now, all she is doing is study hard.