Pune, June,2014 : In keeping with Protsahan’s aim of providing a safe and empathetic environment where issues that affect adolescent girls in urban slums are openly addressed, Protsahan’s Pune chapter kick started a series of workshops addressing child marriage on 29th June.
In the interactive session, students confronted big questions about the ethics and effects of child marriage. They found answers in their small and simplified personal objections, which nonetheless resonate with the more widely- recognized arguments. Thus for instance, when asked why girls should not be married at an early age, they responded with statements like “she would not know everything”, “she will have to wear kumkum”, “she will have to do a lot of work and cook food for many,” “she will have to go away from her mother”, resonating with objections about forced maturity in child brides. Or, when asked what such a child would miss out on, they responded, “playing,” “studying,” “fulfilling her dreams,” “dressing up”, echoing scholarly objections about the opportunity cost, lack of over-all development and decrease in human resource.
“शादी का मतलब कुम-कुम”
(Marriage to me is kumkum) – An 11 year old girl from the slums of Pune
After class, when one of the girls’ tear-filled eyes led to a one-on-one discussion, it was discovered that adults in her family had already begun considering the logistics of her marriage. To this little girl, child marriage was a very real prospect, not just an issue one reads, analyzes and discusses.
It is here that the paradox of this delicate issue can be understood. While academics bicker, governments frame (or don’t frame) policy and the activist youth protests, the child herself, the very subject of the issue, is left out of the equation. However, the girls’ naïve and concise, but accurate understanding of the problem, and the anxiety that first-hand experience brings, indicates whose ideas should really matter.
Recognizing this, we at Protsahan encouraged our students to express their opinions, using story-telling, theatre, film-making, photography and art, all of which will be part of future workshops on the topic. To culminate this one artistically, the girls designed a poster, symbolically marked with tears in the child bride’s eyes.
With more sessions to come, there’s more to learn and more to create.
With inputs from Vartika Gupta