Rashmita Pallei is the seventh child of a minority farmer in Aitipur village under Khallikote block, Ganjam district, Odisha. She has five brothers and all are working as migrant labourers in Mumbai and Gujarat. She is the third girl child in her family. Rashmita has witnessed the marriages of her elder sisters when they turned 16 and 17 and has seen her elder sister Rita loose her first child during her delivery at the age of 17. Her other sister Reema also suffered two miscarriages. Her parents tried to convince her to get married as she had already completed her tenth grade. Rashmita tried her best to convince her parents but they were not convinced.
Rashmita with the support of her adolescent group members along with VHAI field staff convened a meeting comprised of ASHA, Anganwadi workers, PRI member and women SHG leaders to discuss the concerns of early child marriage. This village group along with VHAI field team not only helped to convince Rashmita’s parents to delay her marriage by explaining the physical, social and legal repercussions and ramifications of child marriage but also took pledge to make their village ‘Child-Marriage Free’.
The Gram-Panchayat Child Protection Committee, VHNSC, PRI members, ASHA, AWW, CBO, caste panchayat leaders, adolescent groups of the village and the local community at large along with VHAI field team played a significant role in declaring Aitipur and adjacent villages ‘Child Marriage Free’. Aitipur has not reported a case of child marriage since last 2 years and has a prominent sign-board at the entry of the village “This village has been declared as Child Marriage Free Village”. This collective action by the local community has given opportunity to many girls of Khallikote Block to continue their studies and become financially independent.