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Girls Gang Up Against Early Marriage

By the time she turned 10, Uma Kumari of Badgaon village in Uttar Pradesh's Siddharth Nagar district was married off in keeping with the general practice in the area. But unlike all her friends, who met with the same unfortunate fate, this once-quiet, unassuming youngster, who is now in her late teens, has become one of the most determined voices against child marriage in the region. Today, if anyone tries to marry off their daughter before she turns 18, or if child brides are being sent off to their marital homes after 'gauna' (as the formal nuptial ceremony is called) before they attain the legal age, parents have to answer to Uma and her passionate youth 'activist' gang. Through awareness meetings and other outreach activities this courage crusader has inspired many to stand up against early nuptials.

Geeta, 15, from Dohni village, has found her mentor in Uma. While the duo works closely for their cause, Geeta has, in fact, lobbied in her own home to delay her marriage. Her friends Durgawati, 15, and Beenu, 14, who were married early, have joined them in their endeavours as they want to delay their ‘gauna’.

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 WFS Ref: INDM807R 1290 words

These Young Men Are Ready For Responsible Family Planning
Aditi Bishnoi

In most traditional Indian families, couples are unable to hold frank discussions on that commonly avoided but critical issue called family planning. Do they want children? If so, when best to start a family? How many children should they have? What are the contraceptive methods available and best suited to them? Now imagine a scenario where young men understand the importance of equality within marriage and are even willing to share contraceptive responsibility. Meet Ajay Kumar, 23, the resident of a slum in South Delhi. This young, father-of-one is concerned about his wife's well being and doesn't want to add another member to his family for the next few years. He understands that a minimum gap of three years between children will not only keep his wife healthy but enable him to give his family a better, more fulfilling life. Fortunately, Ajay is part of a growing tribe in his neighbourhood, all thanks to an innovative intervention that reaches out to boys and young men, between 15 and 19 years, with key messages related to reproductive health and family planning in order to change attitudes.

“If one takes a look at the demographics of India, there’s a huge youth bulge. Also, 50 per cent of all children born are to young people in the age group of 25 and below. So, if we want to enable couples to truly plan their families then we have to inform them when they are young.”

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 WFS Ref: INDM314R 1250 words

Young Entrepreneurs Crowd-source Funds For Rural Women
Surekha Kadapa-Bose

Priya Singh, a civil servant, was chatting with her Singapore-based friend on Facebook. With her upcoming birthday, the conversation turned to how she was planning to celebrate. Singh was looking to do something different and that's when her friend told her about an online platform that enables regular people to lend money to the working poor in select Indian states so that they can access basics like education, clean water, energy and sanitation. Singh instantly logged on to their website, understood their work and as she turned a year older, she marked the occasion by extending a loan. It is precisely to tap this vast resource pool of socially conscious people that three friends set up a crowd-funding website that provides interest-free loans through its field partners to women, children and unemployed youth.

"I had never imagined that becoming a lender would be such a joyful experience. It was the best birthday gift I could give myself. While I had been donating money and materials off-and-on, helping people to help themselves has been satisfying.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDL418R 1200 words

Abia’s The Young Voice Of Women With Disability

She is young and she is disabled. But instead of being a seen as a burden she is seen a beacon of hope and hailed an inspiration for excellence and activism. Abia Akram, 30, personifies the cause she champions: that education can be the catalyst in a world where those with disabilities are not always taken seriously. The first female with disabilities from Pakistan to win the much sought after U.K. Government’s Chevening scholarship, Akram has continued to push for change, altering antiquated notions of disability. She is the first woman from Pakistan and the first woman with disabilities to be nominated as the Coordinator for Commonwealth Young Disabled People’s Forum and is also the chair of the Youth Council of UNICEF. Adding to her list of accolades, she is the co-chair of Asia Pacific Women with Disabilities United, and focuses much of her time on education and training for women with disabilities to improve self-confidence, and lead others into the future. How did she make all of this possible at such a young age? Akram truly believes that education and her parents’ staunch support have given her the confidence to go out into the world and accomplish more than most thought was possible.

‘I have to accept my disability, not only for me, but for millions of women with disabilities in Pakistan and around the globe. I have a responsibility to do something for women with disabilities all over the world, especially in training for leadership.’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: PAKO720 900 words

Come Join The Club That Fights Hunger
Ajitha Menon

Kshama Mondal, 19, enjoys learning new facts related to the food and nutrition and then putting them into practice. From being an active participant in the nutrition camps organised regularly in her Hosibad village of Bankura district, West Bengal, the teen has moved on to encouraging others. As a member of the Hosibad Naba Tarun Taruni Dal, a youth group, she organises activities that create awareness on issues related to health, education and development. Like Kshama, youngsters in 32 villages of Ghoshergram and Jhunjkagram panchayats have formed groups - comprising 10-15 members - that monitor Integrated Child Development Services and mid day meals, conduct nutrition workshops and check on the implementation of the Right to Education Act as well as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Food security, education security and income security - that's their mantra and ultimate aim.

We write and stage the street plays on themes like basic hygiene, healthy diet and good food habits. We also emphasise the importance of taking children for timely check-ups to the primary health centre,” sys Amita Roy, 15, of the Bortor Ashar Alo group.

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDN423R 1190 words
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