The 17-year-old told PTI she believes the practice of child marriage has completely crippled the vitality of society and there is urgent need to eradicate the age-old social evil so children like her can concentrate on education.
She grew up being told girls had to play second fiddle to the men in their families and herself escaped child marriage, but young Payal Jangid, who was conferred the Goalkeepers Award in the US, has more than overcome that past and is today a globally acknowledged ‘changemaker’.
The Rajasthan teen, now a leading child rights activist, was presented the award by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation at the Goalkeepers Global Goals Awards in New York on Wednesday in recognition of her work towards the abolition of child marriage in her village, Hinsla, and other neighbouring villages in the desert state. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also conferred the award at the ceremony.
The 17-year-old told PTI she believes the practice of child marriage has completely crippled the vitality of society and there is urgent need to eradicate the age-old social evil so children like her can concentrate on education. “Every young person is a changemaker, I am just one of so many. We all have to unite towards fighting this menace of child marriages,” she said in an email interview. Winning the award will go a long way in strengthening her fight against child marriage which continues to take place across the globe, primarily in sub-Sahara Africa and many Asian countries, she said.
Jangid said she decided to work towards the abolition of child marriage after she escaped from its clutches herself. “I vowed to make the area free of this evil and crime and began my campaign in my village and adjoining areas,” she said.
As president of her village’s children’s parliament (bal panchayat), Jangid said she undertook a slew of field activities to empower women and children of her own village and villages nearby. Jangid said she and other children of Hinsla organised protests demanding abolishment of age-old traditions like child marriages.
“Within a year, things changed. Women and children started voicing their concerns and opinions freely. Eventually, my village Hinsla became a child-marriage free village. I feel that was my greatest accomplishment,” she added.
The young activist, who also speaks on issues like climate change and child labour, said all such issues are being taken up by the youth and they have the power to change the world for the better. “The cause of children is the cause of a better tomorrow,” she added.
Jangid was accompanied by Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi to the event in New York and credits him with transforming her outlook on life. “I was a girl who was always told by society to play a second fiddle to males in the family. Under the guidance of Satyarthi and Sumedha Kailash… I stepped up the campaign against the menace of child marriage in my state, which continues to see many such incidents,” she said.
“On a larger context, I feel the root cause of all social issues in India is the lack of proper education among the masses. Therefore, it is imperative to ensure that every child has not only access to basic education but quality education as well,” she added.