Mousumi is proud of the work her team has done, but she knows a tough road lies ahead. “[Because of the pandemic] our parents' work has stopped.” she says. “They told us they have no income because of the lockdown. Schools are closed, and that’s why they are arranging for their children to get married.”
The Hena Girls work with parents to educate them on the law and the devastating effects that child marriage have on girls’ lives, which far outweigh the economic incentives of marrying their daughter young. The group meets regularly and has grown to 45 members whose prominence in the village makes it difficult for early forced marriages to occur without them knowing.
Mousumi has even started to get calls about weddings in other areas.
"I got a distressed call from a 13-year-old girl, who was in tears because she had been taken to another village [to be married],” says Mousumi. “Her parents knew that it would be difficult to conduct a wedding in our village because people would report it to us.”
On the false pretence of visiting relatives, the girl had gone with her parents and was terrified when she overheard her mother discussing her wedding plans. That’s when she made the frantic call to Mousumi, who immediately informed World Vision and called the child helpline.
Together they worked with the police and members of the Village Level Child Protection Committee formed by World Vision to stop the wedding. “When anything happens, they first call us and let us know,” says Debu. “We then guide them about what they need to do.”
For this 13-year-old girl, all it took was a phone call to Mousumi, which completely changed the trajectory of her life.