Five teenage girls from West Bengal's Purulia district, who had resisted child marriage and inspired other girls to oppose the practice, will be guests of President Pratibha Devisingh Patil at the Rastrapati Bhavan on Wednesday.

Mukti Majhi (16), Sangeeta Bauri (15), Bina Kalindi (15), Afsana Khatun (16) and Sunita Mondal (16), who hail from different parts of the district, have reached the capital with their parents and district officials and impatiently await to meet the President.

Sangeeta from Labdha village in Purulia I block and her father Bibhuti Bauri, a rickshaw puller, have reached New Delhi, said that she had stopped five child marriages in her village.

“In our locality, girls are married off at an early age. My parents also wanted to marry me off but I resisted for two years before I was able to convince them that I wanted to study. The practice of child marriage might have become more unpopular but it has certainly not stopped in our area,” Sangeeta told The Hindu over telephone.

With the setting up of schools under the National Child Labour Project in the district in 2008 to encourage the children employed as labour to attend schools, girls are becoming increasingly assertive and have begun saying ‘no' to early marriage at the intervention of their teachers.

“There have been 62 cases where child marriages have been prevented only through the NCLP schools, “Avanindra Singh, District Magistrate of Purulia, said, pointing out that the young girls have become “messengers of social change” and inspired many other girls, not only in Purulia but also in other districts of the State, to desist from marriage at their age.

“The meeting with the President is to encourage the girls who have stood up against child marriage,” Rashtrapati Bhavan spokesperson Archana Dutta told The Hindu.

On May 14, 2009, the President met three girls who had taken up the cause against child marriage. Of the three, Afsana Khatun and Sunita Mondal are also attending the event.

Pointing out that the effort had a “cascading effect,” Ms. Dutta said the Rastrapati Bhavan was in touch with the district administration on the progress made by these girls.