This 24-year-old woman campaigns door-to-door in her village and surrounding areas, despite threats to her life, to stop child marriages.
Twenty-four-year-old Vijaylaxmi Sharma was born in Jhorinda Bhojpura village of Phagi district, Rajasthan, when her mother was just 14 years old. Five years later, Vijaylaxmi already had two other siblings.
Vijaylaxmi went on to finish her B.Ed and so did her brother Vijay (22). Her youngest brother, Mahesh, is 20 and pursuing civil engineering. While the three siblings had the opportunity to study, their friends weren’t as lucky as them.
It wasn’t easy for Vijaylaxmi to convince her parents to allow her to pursue higher education.
When Vijaylaxmi was 13, she saw her friend, as old as her, get married. A year later, her friend was pregnant and, unfortunately, died at the time of giving birth. This is the reason why, from a very young age, Vijaylaxmi began to worry that she might meet the same fate. After all, she used to hear her parents and relatives talking about her marriage even when she was studying.
She used to often overhear these conversations in the living room or at family gatherings, but one day she lost her cool.
“I am not getting married at this age,” she shouted.
Her parents were taken aback on seeing their usually polite daughter react so aggressively. While her mother started cursing, her father was silent.
Later, she went to her father and said, “Please give me your support, father. I will not bring dishonour to our family but there is a lot more I need to do before I get married.”
Her father gave in to his daughter’s request and that marked the start of Vijaylaxmi’s journey as a social activist and her fight against child marriage.
It took her a while but slowly she had the support of her entire family. Together, they campaigned from door-to-door. One of her brothers is a horoscope reader and astrologer, so he used his social identity to convince the girls’ families. While Vijaylaxmi’s parents reasoned with the brides’ parents, Vijaylaxmi spoke to the young girls and told them about the health and social hazards of marrying before the age of 18.
Their combined efforts eventually helped stop 15 child marriages in their village and surrounding villages in a very short span of time.
However, Vijaylaxmi’s fight wasn’t easy. It was, in fact, a struggle. Vijaylaxmi’s mother often received threatening phone calls against her daughter.
“Tell your daughter to stop this madness or she will suffer,” strangers would say on the phone.
Often, when Vijaylaxmi would receive these calls herself, she would lose patience and yell back, “Come, do whatever you want to me. I’m not scared.”
While Vijaylaxmi’s mother used to be really worried for the safety of her daughter, she knew Vijaylaxmi was fighting for a good cause and would face difficulties.
“What motivated me to help other young girls was the fear of imagining myself as a young bride,” says Vijaylaxmi, who is now a teacher.
Featured image: newslaundry.com