Even as a child of 11 years when her peers were merrily engaged in playing games and watching movies, Payal Jangid – from remote Hinsla village in India’s western state of Rajasthan – dreamt of becoming a civil servant when she grew up. Hailing from a community where child marriage is a norm rather than an exception, Payal dared to stand up against her parents and say no to her marriage which they had fixed as per prevailing customs and local traditions.
Today, as a 20-year-old proud graduate, Payal is training to turn her dream into reality. But all this couldn’t have been possible had she not dared to voice her vehement opposition to her own impending marriage nine years back.
As per the fifth National Family Health Survey, 23.3 per cent women in the 20-24 age group were married before they turned 18. The National Crime Record Bureau data reveals that three children are being pushed into marriage everyday.
Payal’s strong stand against child marriage stemmed from the horrors and struggles other minor girls – who had been married off – had to endure every single day. Recognizing that the battle against child marriage needed to start at home, she exhibited immense courage and determination. She made the difficult decision to cut off communication with her father and even went on a hunger strike to convey the seriousness of her conviction. She understood that compromising at that moment would mean betraying herself and her cause entirely.
Payal faced societal and familial pressure, but she stood firm in her resolve. She persuaded her parents to attend community awareness meetings against child marriage. Finally, her conviction convinced her parents, although they were not happy with it.In 2012, she met Kailash Satyarthi and Sumedha Kailash. It was their speech that made her look beyond herself. Payal started secretly attending workshops, training, and mobilization meetings. She joined the compassionate community and started ground-breaking work against child marriages. Determined to stand up against child marriage, she started moving from one village to another to garner support for her drive against child marriage. She successfully created a space that was primarily child-friendly. Her focus revolved around educating girls, young women survivors, children, and the elderly.
Payal also decided to stand up against ‘Ghunghat Pratha’- a custom for women to cover their faces. She believed that it must be a woman’s choice and not her obligation.
Currently, Payal is associated with many youth and women groups who survived different forms of exploitation. She makes it a point to train herself on various issues around women empowerment, children’s, and women’s rights, discrimination, etc.
In 2013, she was chosen as a jury member of the World’s Children’s Prize. For helping create a safer society, she was awarded Sawdhan India Samman by a leading TV channel in 2016. In 2017, she received the Young Achiever Award from a global sports and fitness brand. Payal’s unwavering determination and compassion have not only impacted her own life but have also brought about positive change in the lives of innumerable others across the country. Today she is a role model for others who is holding up the torch against the oppressive practice of child marriage.