President felicitates three young girls in New Delhi

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New Delhi, May 14 (ANI): President Pratibha Patil on Thursday felicitated three young girls from Purulia District of West Bengal for their progressive outlook which helped them to resist their early marriage in favour of further education.

The three girls - Afsana Khatun, Rekha Kalindi and Sunita Mahato, showed great grit and determination when asked to wed at such a tender age by their parents.heir stories of courage impressed the President so much that she invited them to Delhi.

At the felicitation, President applauded the girls and presented them a cash award of Rs. 10,000 each.

"These girls are very brave. They said 'no' to their parents and refused to get married. With the help of their friends and teachers, they convinced their parents that early child marriage is not good. I am very glad that their parents have also agreed," Pratibha Patil said.

On meeting the President, the trio beamed a big smile and said that they think this event would usher a wave of change in their lives as well as the society.

Thirteen-year-old Afsana Khatun has been a student of the Dhobadi Special School, run under National Child Labour Project since August 2007. Prior to enrolment in the school she was working as a domestic help to supplement her parents' meagre income.

When Afsana's parents decided to discontinue her schooling and even fixed her marriage in early September, she resolved not to accept her fate as her elder sister had done.

Her sister too was married off when she was just 13 years in age.

Nonetheless, Afsana sought help from her classmates who jointly asked the Assistant Labour Commissioner, coordinating the National Child Labour Programme (NCLP) in Purulia to intervene.

Similar have been the saga of the other two girls Rekha Kalindi (11) from Jhalda Block and Sunita Mahato (13) from Joypur.

All the three young girls study in the same Dhobadi Special School in Purulia.

Rekha and Sunita also protested when their parents arranged their marriage to persons very much elder to them.

They too asked the NCLP authorities to help them and through their intervention succeeded in convincing their parents to put off their marriages till they attained the age of 18.

Rekha Kalindi recalled how she refused despite the parents' adamant attitude until the officials of the Labour Commissioner emerged on the scene and rescued her.

Child marriage is a social evil and also a penal offence in India. (ANI)

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