What is common among Malala Yousafzai, Anne Frank, Hellen Keller and 16-year-old Rekha Kalindi from Purulia in West Bengal?
The braveheart from the State will feature along with Malala and Anne Frank in the book Children who changed the world to be released in November in Amsterdam marking the 25th anniversary of the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child.
Rekha, now a student of Class X, resisted marriage when she was about 10 years old. Her resistance led to other girls in the area following in her footsteps. She, along with two other girls from the district, was conferred the National Bravery Award by then President Pratibha Devisingh Patil in 2010.
The book is written by Dutch Newspaper NRC Handelsblad ’scorrespondents who live and work in the countries of the children featured in the book.
It profiles 20 children and the chapter on Rekha is written by journalist Aletta Andre.Girls inspired
“Rekha's story fits very well in this theme (the book’s theme), as she resisted a very common but not so great practice in her area, when she was about 10 years old and has with her act inspired other girls to do the same. It shows that very young children, even very young girls in a patriarchal society, have the power to make a difference,” she said in an email response.
Speaking to The Hindu , Rekha said she was very happy that the story about her is being published in other countries. Since the time she and other girls from Purulia had resisted child marriage, many girls came forward to oppose the practice, she said, adding that poverty and lack of education are still resulting in such marriages.
She also pointed out that a Class V textbook of the State Board has a chapter on child marriage where her and another girl's names feature.
“Such stories (like Rekha's) encourage adolescents to protest and raise their voice against child marriage,” Asadur Rahaman, chief of field office UNICEF in West Bengal, said. Pointing out that child marriage and trafficking of girls continue to be a concern in States like West Bengal, Mr. Rahaman said that a scheme like Kanyasree providing scholarship to school-going girls is a significant initiative.