India: how learning communication skills stopped Roshanara’s child marriage

“Would someone even ask me what I would like to do?”

This was all Roshanara could think when her family presented her with her prospective groom at just 15. The choice seemed beyond her reach. Her parents said they needed the money, the match had been approved and besides, what else could she do except cook and clean? But Roshanara did not want to marry. She wanted to study.

For many girls in Roshanara’s position, saying what they want is not that simple: they are never taught the skills to voice their desires or lack the confidence to believe in themselves.

Luckily, Roshanara had been studying with Room to Read in New Delhi, India, where she had learnt communication skills and developed the confidence to stand up for herself. It took a lot of encouragement but eventually Roshanara managed to persuade her mother to call off the wedding.

“If my daughter doesn’t want to get married I will support her completely”

Thanks to Room to Read and Roshanara’s courage, she is now working at a doctors’ clinic and completing a distance-learning Bachelor’s degree. She’s determined to ensure that her three unmarried sisters walk a similar path and complete their education before they consider the possibility of marriage.

47% of girls in India are married before the age of 18. On India’s National Girl Child Day (24 January), Roshanara’s story reminds us that change is possible.

When girls become advocates for their own rights, they can change the social norms that hold them back and take a stand for their generation and the ones to come.