Reading and writing can stop you becoming a child bride. UNESCO has found if all women had primary school level education, child marriages would drop by 1/6. In Sub-Saharan Africa alone that's half a million girls. Literacy is key to keeping a girl’s childhood innocent.
In India along with many other countries, child marriage is illegal, but it’s still a common occurrence, especially in rural areas. Veerni is focussed on helping girls break out of forced child marriage and continue their education. So they set up their institute as a boarding school. Here they take the girls away from the pressure of marriage, teach them to read and write, and give them the skills for life and the best chance for a better future.
Shobha was 8 years old when she got married. She was too young to understand what was happening at the ceremony or why this was happening.<br>
She attended her local school until she had finished her 10th grade. Once she graduated, Veerni Project stepped in and convinced Shobha’s parents to allow her to attend the Veerni Institute to complete her secondary education.
After a lot of persuasion, they agreed.
Living at the institute, she was educated up to the 12th grade. Through the guidance of the staff, and friends, she learned about life and the world than she would’ve ever known had she stayed in her village.
Learning about her situation, the institute taught her a lot about the issue of child-marriage, even sending her to a conference about the laws surrounding it.
After graduating, she was keen to continue her education, and seeing her passion and good grades, the Veerni Project funded her into a college education and also computer education in Jodhpur.
When she was 23, her parents decided that she had spent enough time on her education, and it was time to go to her in-law’s house and begin her marriage.
“My Husband treated me very badly, he beats me and abused me, I tried to call at my home but my family was also not supportive to me at the time. My parents were not willing to listen to me and said that this all was part of the marriage life.”
Shobha ran away, and after refusing to go back, the whole community turned against her. So she went back to Jodhpur to take her Bachelor of Education exam.
Once she had finished the exam, her father found her, telling her that she had to come back to the village. After she refused to come home, father and one of his friends resolved to take her to her husband by force.
Shobha took refuge with the police, so her father, unable to force her to live with her husband, disowned her. After telling them her whole story, they brought her husband in for counseling. While he acted pleasant in front of the police, but afterward he threatened to kill her if she would not return to his house.
She refused, using the knowledge that the Veerni Project had given her on child-marriage; she filed a case against her in-laws.
Living in Jodhpur, she had to have police protection during her studies, as her life was in danger from her husband, and her family. The threats got so intense, that after she completed her Bachelor of Education, she moved to Jaipur, where she continued with her university education.
At the same time, she was fighting her case in court, and at the end of the year, she was awarded a divorce. Now finishing her Masters Degree in history, and her family are slowly starting to accept her again.
“In the end, I would like to thank the Veerni Project who has helped to change my life beyond my wildest dreams”
I am eternally grateful to the support that the Veerni Project gave me. Apart from the opportunity to study and complete my schooling, the institute helped me to become a more confident person. My father also realizes the value of my education. He told my mother that he was proud of me.Usha – Student at the Veerni Institute
In Rajasthan where Veerni operates, only 13-18% of young women had completed secondary education.
20% of children aged 6-14 are still not in school and millions of women remain illiterate.
29% of urban girls and 56% of rural girls are married before they reach 18.