A group of young women across the Indian state of Rajasthan joined forces to put an end to child marriage by promoting free education for girls, a movement that aims to reach every corner of the country.
“I launched the campaign because I knew thousands of other girls were facing similar problems, being pulled out of school and forced into early marriage,” says Priyanka Bairwa, 17, who founded Rajasthan Rising in her home village of Ramathra. “We began to visit other villages and, with the help of local activists, held meetings, gathering more girls and making them aware of their constitutional rights.”
Over the course of a year, the movement went from 10 girls in the group to more than 1,200, and today, Rajasthan Rising is a formal alliance. The movement’s ultimate goal is for girls to have access to free education and scholarships for higher education, and freedom from child marriage, child labor, and caste and gender discrimination. According to Childline India, there has been a 17% increase in child marriage following the lockdown. “Our demands are quite basic, so we are confident we will be heard,” says Najiya Saleem, 19, a Rajasthan Rising leader. “It’s clear that if education is made completely free, we can prevent dropouts and, in turn, child marriage.”