By Anuradha, 23, India
I still remember the morning that changed my life forever. As dawn broke in and the skies began to turn bright, my mother, rather hurriedly, woke me up. As I struggled to open my eyes, my inner voice reminded me that it was a school day, so I'd better hurry up.
I rushed out of bed and spent the next two hours helping my mother do household chores– washing dishes, washing clothes, milking the buffaloes.
Just as I was going to pick my school uniform, my mother told me to wear a dress that she had bought for me. I replied that that type of dress was not suitable for school, but little did I know that the outfit had been carefully chosen for an event I did not expect.
I was only 13 when I became a child bride. After one year, I gave birth to my first child. I was a child myself and I wanted to study and become a teacher. I really did not understand marriage and its facets until later on in life.
My husband, Krishna, was supportive and allowed me to study, but when I was supposed to write my final tenth-grade exams, my family convinced me to miss them as I was eight-month pregnant with my second child. I dropped out of school altogether.
Around this time, I became familiar with the work of international children's charity World Vision in India, which was conducting a sensitisation programme on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in my village. I attended this programme, where I learnt about the importance of providing newborn babies with nutritious and healthy food. My second child, who was born that year, was weak and malnourished. Hence, this programme came as a timely help for me to see my baby grow into a healthy child.
Since then, I attended every programme World Vision India conducted in my community because I felt empowered by the knowledge I was acquiring. I soon learned that education is one of children's primary rights.
With the support of World Vision and my husband, I began exploring the possibility of retaking my tenth-grade exams through open schooling. I did it and my hopes reignited. Nothing has stopped me from pursuing my dreams ever since.
I joined World Vision India as a volunteer and began training children on education and child rights. I went door-to-door in my village to sensitise parents and ensured that all children were enrolled in school. In no time, everyone knew who I was. Beforehand, I used to be known as 'Krishna's wife', but now everyone here calls me Anuradha.
Ending child marriage
In 2017, I was recognised by the District Collector and was given a bravery award for successfully stopping five child marriages. I have also counselled over 20 families against it in my village.
A mother of three children, I am studying to become a teacher while I also work as a news anchor – a platform I use to further speak up on children and women's rights.
At the age of 13, a young girl doesn't even know how to do things for herself. At such a young age, boys and girls cannot financially support their new family, nor do they have a proper education to avail a decent job. They do not have the maturity to endure this responsibility at that age.
Ever since I was sensitised about my rights, I've left no stone unturned. I used to be very angry about my marriage, but now I have left the regret behind and I'm determined to make the lives of other girls in my community secure.
I feel extremely proud when girls come and thank me for stopping their marriage. One of them recently completed her schooling and is pursuing a bachelor's degree.
Although this is encouraging, more needs to be done to end child marriage, which crushes girls' dreams and prevents them from thriving and becoming who they want to be in life.
Child marriage almost slayed my dreams. I don't want other girls to endure this.
World Vision UK is an international charity devoted to improving the lives of the most vulnerable children.