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How Lalita Duhariya Became Bal Sarpanch And Stopped Child Marriage

As a student of class 6, Lalita Duhariya often wondered about the girls in her village who were prohibited from attending school. One of four siblings, Duhariya was born in a low-income household in Rajasthan’s Dera village. While her father, who works as a construction labourer, made sure not to compromise on his children’s education, the obstacles pertaining to village life including scarcity of resources, lack of opportunities, and patriarchal and social norms caused hindrances in not just her life but also the life of other children.

Duhariya, however, grabbed every chance that came her way to better her knowledge and seek clarity in what she wanted to do, and when the Bal Panchayat elections were held in her village, she decided to contest for it and emerged as sarpanch. That’s when her journey as a changemaker began, and she has never looked back ever since.

In an interview with SheThePeople, Lalita Duhariya talks about her role as Bal Sarpanch, how she helped eliminate child marriage, why advocating for children’s rights is equally important, and how she wishes to do more for society.

Lalita Duhariya Interview

18-year-old Duhariya is one of the few people who have stepped out of the village. Most girls in Duhariya’s village were either confined to the four walls of their homes or were limited to working around grazing the cattle; to think of doing a job, leave alone dream of leadership roles, was a near impossibility while she was growing up. While the journey wasn’t easy for her, the Panchayat coming to her village was a stepping stone for her. “When we heard there’s a separate organisation working towards advocacy for children, I sensed a miracle had happened. The Bal Ashram Trust which is a beneficiary of the Pirojsha Godrej Foundation held the elections and they guided us through it. The best part was that all of us children who became a part of the team were involved in decision-making because we knew the village better than anyone,” she recalls.

Duhariya, who always wanted to help girls in her village through education and awareness programmes found a way to navigate her plans after she got elected as Sarpanch. She left no stone unturned to fight for their rights and alter the herd mentality of the village residents who believed girls must not pursue education. “All of us kids involved in the Panchayat held meetings twice a month where we would discuss what was happening in the village and other relevant issues. We often held Mahila Mandal and Yuva Mandal meetings as well to get a clear picture. This ritual continues even today. ” she shares.

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