Torch Bearers

Standing against Early/Child Marriage

During 2012 to 2019, formidable number of adolescent girls in the intervention areas, stood against their own marriages, with support from peers, adolescents’ collective and administration of Malda. A large number of adolescent girls have been active within communities who apart from stopping their own marriages, supported other girls to take a stand in their own lives. Some of the young leaders have received awards for their outstanding courage and action for social change. 

Marium Banu (currently 22 years), the youngest among two elder sisters and one elder brother, lives in Nandarpara village of Gazole. Her father died when she was 8 years. Her mother is a Helper in ICDS centre and her brother is a driver.  

Marium joined the programme at the age of 16 and with her inherent capacity to motivate people soon became a leader within the community.

Her brother and other relatives started forcing her for marriage when she was 17. She told them, since she wishes to carry on with her education and get a job herself, she would like the groom to be well educated and having a government job. She shared that by saying so she knew her family will keep looking for such a groom for years meanwhile she can continue her studies conveniently. Her family would have forced her into getting married if she said no at that moment.

Marium was felicitated on Kanyashree Day by District Magistrate, Mr. Sharad Dwivedi in 2015.

Anima Mandal (currently 21 years) is eldest child with one younger brother and a younger sister living in Rangamatia village of Old Malda. Her father works in a local factory and mother is a house wife. Her younger sister was married off at the age of 14, before Anima joined the programme. 

Anima joined the programme at the age of 15 and became a leader of her group within a small span of time. Anima was deeply affected by her sister’s marriage and she immersed herself fully into fighting the cause in her neighbourhood. 

Anima’s parents fixed her marriage when she turned 16. She firmly stood against this. Her father told her that it is challenging for him to bear the costs of education. At this, she started offering tuition to several students to cover costs for continuing education. 

During the same time frame, she stopped a child marriage in her own village. The girl, being her friend, shared her unwillingness to marriage. Anima took the girl to local administration, lodged a complaint and informed Childline. The girls’ family, being influential in the community, started threatening Anima and her family. One day, in the market place, they stopped Anima’s grandfather and told him Anima will be kidnapped and raped very soon. District administrations as well as journalists were informed. Several newspapers covered her story. This brought a reverse curve at her life and ensured her safety in the neighbourhood. 

Anima was felicitated on Kanyashree Day by District Magistrate, Mr. Sharad Dhevedi in 2015.

Shampa Haldar (currently 20 years), the middle child with one older brother and a younger sister, lives in utter poverty, in Old Malda. Father being paralyzed, her 19 year-old brother with mental illness, is the primary bread earner of the family. 

A small built, shy Shampa joined the collective at 13 years and has been active within girls’ groups from the beginning. But no one had any idea that the soft-spoken, quiet Shampa possess immense mental strength, till her marriage was initiated by her family and relatives at the age of 15. Health conditions of her father became a real challenge, thus this decision. 

After hearing this, Shampa stood firm against the marriage, informed the girls’ groups and the organisation. She negotiated with the family for continuing her education with the Kanyashree money that she has been receiving, along with the stipend that she receives from the organisation. 

Today she is one of the most active Young Leader and Grassroots Trainer, reaching out to hundreds of girls across Malda imparting skills for transforming helplessness, safer decision making skills and negotiating life situations. 

Shampa received Birangana award for breaking the boundaries from West Bengal State Commission for Protection of Child Rights in 2016.

Noor Jahan (16 years), Reyanka Tewari (15 years), Dipa Agarwal (17 years) & Diya Roy (14 years) were felicitated by UNICEF and Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS) on a state level event in October 2018 to recognize their efforts in protecting their own rights and rights of the other girls in their community. These girls had not only made differences in their own life but became inspiration for others as well. Today they are active Peer Leaders, reaching out to hundreds of girls across Malda imparting skills for transforming helplessness, safer decision making skills and negotiating life situations. 

Creating Her Story

Santashi Das and Puja Mandal, 16-year old Peer Leaders of Talash from Malda, represented their district wise adolescents collective at the United Nations Young Change Maker’s Conclave 2018. They made a presentation about their experiences of fighting back to stop their own marriages, organising adolescents for preventing early and forced marriages and taking proactive roles to change the social environment in the presence of 1500 audience and Canadian President Justin Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau. 

First woman Uber Driver in Kolkata

Nibha Mondal, the first woman Uber driver from Kolkata, has been trained driving through our programme Steps towards Economic Empowerment, initiative on non-traditional livelihood for women. Nibha, a single mother, coming from resource-constraint background, worked as a domestic help before joining the programme. After completing the training and obtaining commercial licence, she purchased her own vehicle under the Gatidhara scheme of state government and working as an independent cabdriver. 

Children Meeting Governor

Nasiruddin (15 years) and Sathi Das (14 years) in 2017, met governor Sri Kesari Nath Tripathi on the occasion of releasing State of World’s Children: Children in a Digital World by UNICEF. They shared their experiences of how adolescents and young people are using social and digital media today across class and geographical locations. Both of them are part of the Digital Literacy & Empowerment programme of Talash, engaged in using the medium to enhance voices of young people. They were also present in a panel discussion with Minister Smt. Shashi Panja and Chairperson of West Bengal State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Smt. Ananya Chakraborty.

Joyjit Sarkar (11 years), Akash Mistiri (11 years) and Arjina Khatun (14 years) met Governor Sri Jagdeep Dhankhar on the occasion of releasing State of World’s Children 2019: Children, Food and Nutrition, Growing Well in a Changing World by UNICEF.