Not ready to say “I do” in India

Vedika is 19 and represented The Family Planning Association of India (FPAI) on the Youth For Change Panel at 2014's Girl Summit event. She talks child marriage, and why involving young people is essential to put an end to the practice.

The issue of youth sexuality and child marriage is a huge challenge facing our country. I noticed that there is still much hesitation amongst the youth during discussion on young people’s sexual rights or youth sexuality with teachers or other elders including parents.

Youth are the backbone of a nation. They can change the future of society with their determination and courageous behaviour. Youth is the spring of life. It is the age of discovery and dreams. It is the youth upon whom the entire nation relies for a better future.

The role of youth is of utmost importance in today’s time. Youth today needs to realise that even at this young age they have the power to execute the change they are looking for. Young participation is important because youth are the country’s power. It is the youth who can recognise problems, look for solutions and actually implement them at both an individual as well as global level.

Almost every nation today faces a number of issues such as illiteracy, forced child marriage, crime etc. We all want this to end. We all want our society to grow and develop. But wanting something and actually doing something for it to happen are two different things. Like Mahatma Gandhi rightly said – “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Talking about India, youth in India constitutes one-fifth of the total population. India is eyeing the youth as the main force of social movement and change. The general perception is that the indifferent attitude towards things, situations and politics is a major problem which is proving fatal to India’s growth. Moreover their voices go unheard. Lack of unity and spirit is also a major setback. However the latest general elections held in India have shown that youth are the driving force of change.

A case to point is that of Mohini, a young girl all of 15 years of age was to marry Teja. Her fate looked sealed when her family began the wedding proportions. But the bride-to-be, a shy young school girl had different aspirations and was not ready to say “I do.” In a region where patriarchy and age-old customs dictate a woman’s life from birth to death, 15 year old Mohini joined a small but growing number of girls who are standing up against the widespread practice of child marriage in India. She went to her mother and told her that she wanted to study more and get a job and only then get married. But she didn’t stop there. She went to local officials in the city of Ajmer to seek advice and press home to her family that the legal age for a girl to marry in India is 18. Human rights activists say that Mohini’s efforts and steps to curb this practice shows that through education and exposure to the modern world, girls are beginning to take decisions over their own lives and are helping end the practice of early forced marriage that has plagues India for centuries.

Thus we see how the youth of today through its capacity and ability to bring a change can cause a spark in the society and be a catalyst of its growth and development.

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