Breaking down the barriers for girls

Palika (name changed) is 20 years old and lives in a rural village in Bihar. She is an active and well known youth champion.

Palika’s association with Plan India began eight years ago when she joined a Children’s Club. She explained that before joining the club, she was very shy to speak out, “Whatever I was facing, I thought it was part of my life. Afterwards, I realised that this was not part of my life and these were issues that had to be overcome.”

In Bihar, girls are generally married off early, unprepared to bear the marital and childbearing responsibilities put upon them. Her village is particularly isolated, surrounded by mountains with only around 35 households. Additionally, due to the lack of educational and livelihood opportunities, child labour, child marriage and child trafficking are constant issues. Palika felt impelled to tackle the issue of child marriage in her community.

She managed to get support from her friends and the Plan Youth Advisory Panel (YAP). Palika went from door to door advocating for girls’ rights. Inevitably, she faced many challenges from her community; gender discrimination was so prevalent that her village would not listen to what she had to say. At 14 years, her own parents decided that they wanted to get her married but she raised her voice and successfully fought against their decision. Since then, she has worked with district officials and through ChildLine (1098 tele helpline for nationwide support to children in distress), prevented 12 child marriages!

Palika also found support from Dainik Jagran, one of India’s most read newspapers, who covered her story. ETV Bihar, a news channel also decided to report on her, which reached a wide audience. In 2015, Palika was elected as a state representative for the National Youth Advisory Panel.

Despite having already achieved so much and bringing about so much positivity, Palika wants to do more. “I want to dedicate my life to bring about change!” she says with confidence and determination in her voice.