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Marriage Will Be My Choice

What if at the age of 15, your parents introduced you to your husband?

You saw your dreams, your ambitions vanish right before your eyes….replaced with images of a new life: an obedient wife, no longer able to attend school, pulled away from the home you have always known, and now living with strangers while taking care of your young children.

If this happened to you, would you be as strong as Jailata?

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Jailata’s path—an arranged marriage, moving in with her husband’s family in her hometown in northern India, having children within a year—seemed set. But it wasn’t one she wanted.

She was a star student—and she loved school. She loved learning. She dreamed of attending college and finding a job. Her whole life was before her. Marriage would change everything.

The Power of Knowledge

From her friends, Jailata heard about a class being offered in her community through Pathfinder’s PRACHAR project. It was a chance for young girls exactly her age to come together and learn about health. She decided to go.

It was during these classes that Jailata found a world of possibilities and the power to change her entire future.

She learned about reproduction, contraception, and safe pregnancies. She learned the anatomy of her reproductive system (“Wow, this is what the body looks like? I had no idea!”) and the many methods women can choose from to delay and space their pregnancies.

Armed with this new information, she did something profound: Jailata found the courage to ask her family to delay her marriage.

She raced home and pleaded to her mother,

I cannot get married at such an early age.”

It’s not good for me—or my future family, Jailata said. “I told her about the negative effects an early marriage can bring, like how if a girl gets pregnant too early, her body is not ready to have children.”

Her mind was racing, and the words kept coming: “I could not finish my education. Then I can’t get a job. I can’t learn a skill. I would not be able to secure my future financially. I told her that this can lead to a lot of tension. My husband would feel pressure once we’re married—that he has to earn for me and our whole family.”

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Early marriage not only robs girls of their human rights, it threatens their health and futures. Soon after marrying, girls are often pressured to prove their fertility by getting pregnant before they are ready. The result is devastating. Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the second leading killer of girls 15-19 worldwide.

Charting Her Own Course

Today, Jailata is 22 years old—and not married.

She has finished school and now works at a non-profit in Bihar, India while pursuing a postgraduate degree. It wasn’t without a struggle, she admits. “Community people used to put pressure on us,” she says. “They’d ask why I’m not getting married… their children are getting married now. But in time, my parents came to say, ‘She’s our daughter. She’s studying. There is no problem.’”

Jailata is, in every way, a model and beacon of hope for women around the world. She is a woman who dares.

She plans to get married in her own time, when she finds someone worthy of the bright future she has planned. And she believes every young girl deserves the same choice.

Before, I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know what my role was. I didn’t know what the right age of marriage was for me. All I knew was I should get married, have children, and serve my in-laws.”

Grounded in lessons from her training, Jailata charted her own course.

“Every adolescent should get the training I got, so they can change their reproductive life. The change I feel—I want every girl to have the opportunity to feel it.”

Every girl deserves the same choice.

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