Santana is a child bride. She comes from West Bengal in India where more than 1 in 2 girls are married before their 18
“My parents married me off when I was 14. I am 18 now and have two children. I wanted to be a teacher but instead I was forced to get married.”
But Santana sees herself as fortunate: “My husband is good and kind and so is his family. But many others are not so lucky. That is why it’s important I tell my story and help educate others so that they can achieve what they want.”
Santana is an advocate for The White Ribbon Alliance in her community where she works to stop other girls getting married.
I say to young girls in my community: don’t be like me, don’t get married. You may not get a good husband like mine. Stay in school. You can change the world.
“I say to young girls in my community: don’t be like me, don’t get married. You may not get a good husband like mine. Stay in school. You can change the world. And I also tell them to delay having babies and not to have children they can’t afford to care for.”
Santana works with families and communities to make them see the benefits of delaying marriage. “When I hear about girls in my community who are going to be married, I visit their families and try to get them to change their minds. If that doesn’t work, I call in others - local midwives and elected leaders - to persuade them. We have managed to stop many early marriages that way.”
I visit their families and try to get them to change their minds. If that doesn’t work, I call in others - local midwives and elected leaders - to persuade them.
Like many other child brides, Santana wants a better future for her children – one that does not involve child marriage.
“I won’t marry my children off. I’m hoping they will become doctors or teachers just like my husband and I wanted to be. It’s very important that we stop child marriage but I need support to make sure we can tell as many people as possible.”
Santana is taking part in #MyLifeAt15, a global campaign asking government to deliver on their promise to end child marriage by 2030.
“I have now decided to go back to school and fulfill my dream - and my husband agrees - I will become a teacher.”
In the time it has taken to read this article 25 girls under the age of 18 have been married
Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18
That is 23 girls every minute
Nearly 1 every 3 seconds