Payal Jangid, a teenager from a village, Hinsla, in Rajasthan has made curbing of child marriages and abolition of child labour her twin missions in life. “Many resign themselves, to the way things are, far too easily. Everyone must challenge injustice and not run away or hide from problems. With strength and cooperation, even the toughest minds can be changed,” Payal said in an interview with the media.

In recognition of her work in Hinsla, Payal received the Goalkeepers Global Goals Changemaker Award  on September 25, 2019. She is the first Indian to receive the award constituted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Payal, 17, now in college, continues with her social work and activism.

Her battle against child marriage and child labour in her village is successful. No instances of child marriage and child labour have been reported in Hinsla recently.

The Changemaker Award encourages and honours the achievements of young activists, campaigners, and innovators across the world for inspiring social change according to the Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations. The award aims at achieving three objectives over the next 15 years―ending poverty, fighting inequality and injustice, and fixing climate change.

Payal Jangid

Payal’s inspiring journey began with her fight against her own and her sister Babli’s  marriage five years ago, when she was 12 years old and her sister was 14 years. She won that first home battle, which inspired her to extend her fight to the rest of the village.

She then went on to empower other young girls in the village. Through campaigns, rallies, putting up posters and speaking to children and elders in her village and nearby villages, Payal tries to persuade families to allow girls to study and not get them married off as children.

In a video shared by the Gates Foundation, she said: “We had to work hard to make the elders realise that they were prohibiting us from getting our education. I want every child in the world without education to be helped, and given a chance.”

Five years ago, when 12-year-old Payal overheard her parents discussing suitors for her and her sister Babli, then 14, her heart sank. She felt the same unease watching other little girls in tears as they were wrenched out of their homes into a stranger’s arms.

“Watching them, I knew that this was wrong—children shouldn’t be put through this,” Payal said.

Determined to oppose child marriage, Payal then studying in class seven, refused to get married, or allow her sister to do the same. It was a battle that was not easy to win, but Payal refused to give in.

Then Payal received support from an unexpected source. In 2012, her village Hinsla was chosen by the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) to be turned into a child-friendly village.

As part of this initiative, Nobel-Peace-Prize recipient, Kailash Satyarthi and his wife, Sumedha Kailash, founder of Bal Ashram, visited Hinsla and spoke to the community about a child’s right to education, health care and protection against exploitation. Inspired by them, Payal joined their cause.

“We found her very dedicated towards bringing change in her village. She quickly became an active participant in our programmes,” says Sumedha.

The Satyarthis helped put a stop to Payal and her sister’s marriage and inspired her to continue fighting for child rights. In 2013, she became the sarpanch of the Bal Panchayat (Children’s Parliament)—a platform where children could talk freely about their problems to a leader they elected. Payal played the role of a coordinator between the village panchayat and children to work out solutions. 

She also organized protests and educated the community about how oppressive practices—domestic abuse, child labour, ghoonghat pratha [purdah] and early marriage—ruined lives.

The village elders reacted fiercely. “People would turn us away asking me not to spoil their children with such ideas. But we did not give up,” Payal said.

And it is her never say die spirit that continues till today.

The journey has just begun. It will be a long one, as Payal will surely want to extend her battle against child marriage and child labour to other parts of India.

(Source: Media reports)