Rekha Kalindi, the 11 year old crusador who refused to be a child bride
She is a leader, an icon! Knowing her revolutionary act, the then President of India Pratibha Patil decided to meet this brave young girl from West Bengal. She was only 11 when Indian President told her, ‘I am hopeful and sure that you will be an inspiration to other young girls; so that our country can eliminate this notion of marriage between two children at the cost of their education, their future and ultimately their happiness’. That brave girl is Rekha Kalindi from a small remote village in Purulia, West Bengal.
Rekha Kalindi was born in a place where birth of a girl child is still considered to be a bad news. She has been raised in one of the India’s poorest village. The ideologies and beliefs prevailing in the minds of people of that village are still age-old. But Rekha Kalindi defied every such old customs refusing a forced child marriage, that too at a very tender age of 11.
The leadership skills learned by this small girl in her school let her gain strength to defy her family, her village and secure her future. She learned at school about her basic rights.
When Rekha Kalindi was 11 years old, her parents planned for her marriage to get rid of their burden. Having seen her elder sister’s sufferings after becoming a mother at the age of 12, the whole idea of marriage terrified Rekha and eventually she revolted against it and that created a milestone for many other girls facing the same situation.
It was during a school performance, where West Bengal’s Minister of Labour was also present, Rekha explained the importance of school and then dared to tell the story of her sister and her own refusal to marry. The speech received extensive media coverage as a local journalist published the complete story of Rekha Kalindi and her struggle.
After that, Rekha was beaten brutally by her mother and prohibited her from returning to school. Rekha was also deprived from food for few days. It was only after the intervention of her teacher and an assistant to the Minister of Labour, she could return to school. Despite some of the threats, Rekha Kalindi agreed to write more speeches about child labour, importance of education and on forced marriages.
Now, Rekha’s act of defiance has rippled throughout India. Because of her stubborn refusal to her parent’s demands, other girls from her village have also balked at the early marriages. She counselled and inspired a lot of other girls and at least 10,000 in her district Purulia, have resisted child marriage.
Rekha Kalindi received the national Bravery Award’ 2009 along with two other girls Afsana Khatun and Sunita Mahato, who showed the same courage to refuse child marriage. A renowned Dutch Journalist has featured Rekha’s story in his book ‘Kinderen Die De Wereled Hebben Veranderd’ (Children who changed the world), among the stories of other heroic children.
Let’s hope that India witness many more brave girls like Rekha Kalindi, who can re-shape our society and India as a whole.
Photo Credit: dayatrust