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An early marriage at a tender age of 14 had forced Santana Murmu out of school when she was in class VIII.
A mother of two daughters now, the poor tribal girl from West Bengal has fought back her way to school after four years to finish her studies. Not only that, she is actively working for stopping child marriages and was even invited to the UN General Assembly last year to share her stories.
Leaving her children with her in-laws and husband, she walks 3km every morning from Kushmandi village in South Dinajpur district to attend Manikore High School. Her first class resumed last week after a gap of four years.
“I am very excited. I am the senior-most in the class now and they look up to me with a lot of respect. All I want is to be a teacher and fulfill my dream,” says Murmu, whose elder daughter Vasundhara is 3-years old and attends the Anganwadi playschool.
Throughout her journey, her labourer-husband Gobind Hemram has been a constant support besides members of the child rights NGO Child In Need Institute (CINI). “I am proud of her and have realised that life would have been better for her had we not married early. Education and health are very important, and so I am supporting her,” said Hemram, a class V dropout himself.
Before becoming a child bride, Murmu always dreamed of being a teacher one day in life. Her father funded education of her brother till the master’s level. But when it came to the daughter’s future, he unfortunately had a different yardstick.
“Suddenly one day I was told that I am getting married to someone. That time I could do nothing to stop my marriage or continue my studies. But, now I have convinced my husband,” Murmu said.