This blog is the first installment of our Young Powerful Women series for this years International Women’s Day. Hear from Mamuni, who was just 17 years old when she was pressured to get married. She lives with her mother and older sister in a remote village in Ganjam District, Odisha state, India. Here girls are often married as child brides, many before the age of 14. Her story shows her courage to fight for her education, and continue to lead the way for girl’s rights.
My mother, as a single parent and brick laborer, wanted me to get married to reduce the financial burden on her. So, I was arranged to be married to a 32 year old man in our village, and was not allowed to study anymore.
I knew early marriage could have a bad impact on me physically and psychologically, but I did not have enough knowledge to discuss the issue. In our village only the parents and elders make the decisions on who marries who.
Just before I was to be married, Restless Development and the dance4life began an awareness programme in my village. They recruited young volunteers from local villages, who ran youth clubs and campaigning activities, educating everyone on the negative effects of child marriage, and the legal consequences of marrying before the age of 18.
After attending sessions with Restless Development volunteers, I felt confident to speak to my mother about both the sexual and mental pressures I could face if marrying so young. With the support and knowledge from Restless Development, I convinced my mother to postpone my marriage and allow me to happily continue my studies at a nearby college in Khallikote.
I was then selected as a member of the Youth Council formed by Restless Development. My role is to help the community address important issues, especially those affecting young people. I was able to raise the issue of forced marriage through sharing my own experiences. I now work as a Restless Development volunteer in my village, and will continue to work in my community until there is an end to child marriage.