Fiona Dunn, who volunteered with Restless Development in India, shares the next story in our special International Youth Day series ‘1 in 1.8 billion’, which celebrates the power of young people around the world.

Parvati Devi was 15 years old when her marriage was arranged by her parents. She was not physically or mentally prepared.

She wanted to finish her studies. Her family was very poor and illiterate, which gave her an even greater passion and momentum to continue her education.

Due mainly to pressures from her father, she was forced into the marriage, despite her opposition. During the very first month, she learned she was expecting twins.It meant her studies were brought to an abrupt end.

Parvati’s life had already changed beyond recognition.

Then, in the midst of this overwhelming ordeal, Parvati miscarried her twins. Anger, sadness, injustice, frustration, and loss all combined. She experienced lasting physical trauma and psychological damage. For anyone who has not gone through what Parvati has experienced, it is almost impossible to imagine her pain.

There was so much holding Parvati back from raising her voice. She had gone through trauma, had lost her children and she had not finished her education. But the power of a young person’s voice is illustrated beautifully through Parvati’s story.

Parvati’s inner strength and values were displayed to awe-inspiring effect. As a result of the injustice she had experienced, Parvati could not remain silent. She confronted her father about child marriage and told him that he could not let it happen again – not to her three younger sisters. Parvati raised her voice through the darkness and injustice of her experiences to prevent a negative cycle of child marriage in her family.

From one young woman’s convictions, a family was forever changed.

Parvati’s three younger sisters were given the opportunity to finish their education. They were not forced into child marriage. The impact of this cannot be underestimated. Three young women have the opportunity to continue their education. And it can change the way other families deal with child marriage as they hear and learn from Parvati’s story.

But Pavarti’s story is part of a much bigger problem with child marriage. The lack of awareness of child marriage laws, due to minimal education, influenced her father’s decision, andthe lack of understanding of the negative impact child marriage has on young people also affected his choice Wider societal pressures and values add to the problem – pressures and values that need to be scrutinsed by Parvati.

Parvati is now 26 years old and lives in Jharkhand, India, with her husband, 2 sons, and in-laws. From the darkness of her story, Parvati shines brightly as an example of the potential for a young person to raise their voice against injustice, and for this one voice to create real change. Parvati’s voice was genuine and full of passion. She risked fear and shame to come forward and raise her views, without knowing the reaction. If Parvati could change the views of her father, who is to say we cannot change the views of society?

We need to celebrate this story and the stories of other young people who find the inner strength to raise their voice against child marriage and other injustices. It is when one voice is celebrated that I believe we will see more and more other young voices begin to be heard.

Hold leaders to account on issues like gender inequality – join Restless Development’s Youth Power campaign.

What do you think?

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