United, we walk against child marriage


From being blissfully ignorant about gender inequality to taking a courageous stand against child marriage, here is Suman’s journey.

15 year old Suman Haldar lives in Kulpi, on the east coast of India in a village in South 24 Parganas, West Bengal. Suman has been part of the Action for Equality programme implemented by our partner Sundarban Social Development Centre (SSDC) under the Hummingbird Raise Programme.  He has been part of the programme for more than a year. Child marriage is a grave concern and an everyday reality in the village he lives in.

Suman says, “Before joining this programme, I even attended a few neighbourhood marriages where the bride was either my age or a couple of years older than me. During one session participants were asked to list down all the human rights violation associated with child marriage. This session was an eye opener for my friends and I, and I was determined to stop early marriage at least in my community”.  And he did.


Suman with his mentor didis in an Action for Equality session

Recently, a girl in Suman’s village, who  was much younger than 18 years, was being forced to  marry by her parents. When he heard this, Suman shared it with his mentor didi and requested her to guide him on how to stop this marriage. Promptly, she asked him to get in touch with Childline, a helpline for children in distress . However, before contacting Childline, Suman decided to speak to the girl and her parents. His  first attempt was futile as her father wasn’t even ready to speak to him. Suman felt discouraged by this hostility, but didn’t brood much and thought of another effective way that would work.

His second visit was  along with his peer support group as they felt a collective voice would change the man’s decision. Suman and his friends focused on how the girl’s health would be at risk if she was pressured into early motherhood. This time the father looked convinced, but not enough. That’s when they started talking about the legal implications. The boys threatened the man and his family about reporting to Childline, and the police. “That’s when he looked nervously at me,” Suman says, “and assured he would speak to the groom’s family. On a follow up visit with my mentor to the same family, I was happy to hear that they called off the wedding. Earlier, I felt such dramatic incidents can only happen  in television serials. I never thought such a day would come in my life where I would be the agent of change.”

To know more about Hummingbird Raise, click here