Payal Jangid - Fighting For Children Rights One Village At A Time
Payal Jangid, is by all accounts a hero. At the age of 11, she was able to escape being married and now fights to end child marriage in India.
This is her story.
Payal Jangid comes from a poor rural village (Hinsla) in Rajasthan, a part of India where many people live in poverty and girls are often forced into child marriage.
Payal was one of them.
At only the age of eleven, her parents made the decision for her and her sister to be married. Her parents were resolute in their decision. Payal Jangid tells People Magazine how she was able to stop the marriage when she met local activists presenting at her school:
“I told [my parent’s plan] to the activists, who in turn shared my situation with Smt. Sumedha Kailash ji, the founder of the Bal Ashram Trust,” she says. “With her intervention and support, I protested against the decision of my family. Eventually, my parents relented and my marriage was called off.”
Since then, Payal has been campaigning to end child marriage in her village, and the surrounding areas, encouraging other children to have a say in their own future. She plans rallies, organises protests, and engages with various women's groups and youth forums of her village and surrounding villages. The protests have helped other women and children in the village to feel more comfortable voicing their concerns and opinions. Payal also educates parents of the detrimental effects child marriage can have on girls, and the importance of education for their futures.
In 2013, Payal and other young people formed a children's council so that young people in their community could have a voice on the issues that concern them. She worked tirelessly to have their voices heard and convinced the elders about the importance of education. In her own words, when interviewed by news18 she describes what they did
“We organise meetings and discuss various issues like lack of separate toilets for girls in schools and the need to stop child marriage and let children be children. We go from door to door and explain to parents the importance of education. We also tell them not to beat their children and respect their emotions. If parents are loving and caring, children will have a better environment to grow. We aim to make our village child friendly.“
Payal has been recognised internationally for her campaign against child-marriage. In recognition for her efforts she was chosen as a member of the jury for the World's Children's Prize in 2013. In 2015, Payal and other youth activists met Michelle and Barack Obama when they were in India. In 2017, she received the 'Young Achiever Award' by the global sports and fitness brand Reebok
Only last year, she was the first Indian to receive the Changemaker award of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation at the Goalkeepers Global Goals Awards held in New York.
Her work to eradicate child-marriage in her village has worked with her father saying, “Almost all kids are going to school now. There have not been any child marriages in the village for the last 8-10 years.
India has the highest rates of child brides in the world, according to UNICEF there are 15,509,000 child brides. 27% of girls in India are married before their 18th birthday and 7% are married before the age of 15. Child marriage severely limits ones chance at education, escaping poverty and increases the likelihoods of one suffering violence and sexual and emotional abuse. Child-marriage can impact someone’s entire future and is a vicious cycle. It increases the likelihood of premature girls becoming pregnant, suffering serious health risks.
The practice of child marriage is steeped in gender inequality, tradition and patriarchy but in India there are other factors: Poverty and local customs is a major barriers to ending child marriage, as many families living in poverty are eager to marry girls off due to the perceived economic cost, and customs based off religion can cause enormous social pressure on young girls. Education for girls in India is the key to fighting child-marriage as many in India do not consider the benefit of girls having an education as they are deemed inferior to boys.
As Payal told Financial Express “I was a girl who was always told by society to play a second fiddle to males in the family... I stepped up the campaign against the menace of child marriage in my state, which continues to see many such incidents,”
“On a larger context, I feel the root cause of all social issues in India is the lack of proper education among the masses. Therefore, it is imperative to ensure that every child has not only access to basic education but quality education as well,” she added.
The numbers above can seem daunting… how can one solve such a massive issue? Jangid was able too, her village is now child-marriage free and most kids go to school every day. Working hands on in each community with an emphasis on education is the answer. Leaders like Payal Jangid are the answer.
Payal, is an inspiration to all of us. She shows us that one voice, one protest, and unwavering determination and bravery can create change. Her village is now a child-friendly village. The surrounding villages are beginning to end child-marriage in their communities as well. Payal fights for us. She fights for children all across the world. With aspirations to become a teacher, who knows the impact Payal Jangid will undoubtedly continue to have.
As Payal says “The cause of children is the cause of a better tomorrow,”