Former teen bride fights child marriages

Tepur:  Tanjila Bibi was married off when she was in the eighth grade. The mother of three is now busy fighting child marriages.

She was born in Tepur village, in North Dinajpur, as the third of eight children. She was fondly called Tanju in her childhood days by her family, friends and relatives.

“I was married when I was in grade VIII and life took a new turn for me. I work today to prevent child marriage,” she says.

The transformation from Tanju (Tanjila Khatun) to Tanjila Bibi took place rather early as she was married off before she could complete her High School education.

She has been a volunteer for Children International (CI)-SAHAY for almost four years.

With a very supportive husband and in-laws behind her she says that her dream of doing social work and helping others is being fulfilled through her volunteer services in the institution’s run sponsorship program. Some 24,000 children and youth in eight districts of West Bengal are enrolled under the CI-SAHAY sponsorship program.

SAHAY is located in Kolkata and is affiliated to Children International, Kansas City, U.S.A.

As a volunteer, Tanjila, a homemaker, takes organizes community awareness projects on prevention of child and early marriage, HIV AIDS prevention, combating malnutrition and maintaining a healthy lifestyle for children and youth.

One of her most moving experiences as a volunteer has been to get a pregnant woman admitted into hospital on an emergency basis for delivery on time otherwise complications could have led to the death of both the mother and the child.

“Imagine the joy on the faces of the family members and relatives,” reports Tanjila, “when the child was born safe and his mother was declared out of danger, because of the timely intervention,” she adds.

The thirty-five year old lady reports, “Being a mother of two girls and having experienced child marriage herself, I feel I am better equipped to explain to other mothers and women on the drawbacks on an early marriage. I am able to make them understand the evils of an unprepared girl for marriage, both mentally and physically.”

Tanjila says her most rewarding experience is working with young girls and their mothers.

“It helps me to interact with them on a one-to-one basis and hence give a lot more through a personal touch,” she adds.

She also states that ‘the most important issue’ for her as a volunteer, which she propagates is ‘the prevention of child marriage.’

As part of her duties Tanjila assists with the maintenance of records and attendance of the children attending the nutrition supplement program and the registers of the supplementary feeding program in her community centre. She helps organize nutrition awareness sessions for mothers and children.

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