|Rajiya Khatun is a member of YRC KYP|
I had a fun filled childhood. I used to play a lot and even swim in the pond when I was a child. I don’t know when people around thought I had grown up.
Last year I got a shock when our neighbour visited my home unannounced, with a marriage proposal for me! This neighbour is a lawyer and he said he knew a boy who would be a good match for me. He initiated this process with both families without even asking us!
The local youth group YRC KYP heard about this proposal and they immediately came to talk to my family. They spoke to me and my parents telling us that I was too young and this proposal was unacceptable. I myself was and still am not ready for marriage. I want to study, have fun, be part of the group, earn some respect. Self-respect is very important for me.
YRC KYP is very active in our area and they always intervene when they see any injustice. I really like being part of this work, and now I accompany them to influence other families. Just recently a 15 year old girl was married off. We tried hard to explain to her family but failed. I feel so bad for this girl. At 15 what does she know about marriage and sansar? She can’t come to the group anymore, her studies have been stopped. She has no one to share her feelings with. She will suffer. We girls have to work in our home too, but that is different. Occasionally we can say we don’t feel like doing anything today. But in your in-laws home, who will listen to you?
Our village is beautiful, but girls have no freedom. A few years ago a few of us teenage girls were part of a Girls group, but the community did not allow it. I felt very bad when the group was disbanded. But the KYP team did not give up, and slowly managed to involve younger girls. The group was restarted with children. People in the village did not object to younger children, boys and girls meeting at the group.
But my parents still did not want me to go to the group. I just used to sit and cry silently at all that I was missing. It was so frustrating. Then one day KYP organized a workshop on Trafficking in our village and asked my parents to attend. They went and were very influenced by it. After that they insist that I go to the group. It was like magic, their behaviour changed overnight! I am very grateful to YRC KYP. At the group I can share a lot with my group members, things which I cannot even do with my parents. We learn new things and our group team leader Azhar, is an inspiration and always stands beside me. We challenge discrimination and early and forced marriages. Today I could come to Kolkata for the first time because of the group. But we must return home at the right time! We were only able to come because my parents trust the KYP members to ensure our safety.
My dream is to be a doctor and treat the poor people in my village. I am in class 10 now, I have to find out about applying for Medical Science. I know that my family and group members will help me achieve my dream.
My message to all young girls and their parents is please don’t marry while you are still children. Play, study, join the Group and discover yourself!