On Wednesday, September 25, India held its head high as a 17-year-old Payal Jangid from Rajasthan became the first Indian to receive the Changemaker Award by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Payal, who is from Hinsla village, about 100 kms from Jaipur, has been conferred with the award for her continuous dedication towards the abolition of child marriage in her village, which is a child-friendly village (Bal Mitra Gram), as well as in neighbouring villages.
According to Payal, her activism and fight to abolish child marriage began at the age of 11, when she had to relent against being married off. She was successful in raising her voice against her parents’ decision and prevented the marriage.
She has then served as the President of her village’s Children’s Parliament (Bal Panchayat). She has conducted a number of field activities and rallies to empower women and children of her own village and villages nearby.
In a video posted on the international NGO’s Twitter account, Payal described, “We have a lot of problems in our village, especially girls are not allowed to go out and study and they are married off early. Even I was forced to get married.”
Talking about the initiatives, she added, “We would organise rallies, posters, paint walls, go house to house, speak to the families. We had to work really hard to make the elders realise that they were prohibiting us from getting our education.”