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A story to celebrate on the International Day of the Girl Child

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Ben Arnoldy

(Read caption) Rekha Kalindi, a 12-year-old girl living in Bararola, India, refused to get married when her parents tried to arrange one and insisted on staying in school.

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The United Nations has declared today the first International Day of the Girl Child and is observing – rather than celebrating – the day by focusing on the problem of child marriage.

However, I have a story about child marriage from my years reporting in India, that one can truly celebrate. 

But first, the startling statistics from the UN: Child marriage still happens to a third of young women globally. Pregnancy complications are the leading cause of death for girls 15 to 19 in the developing world. And child marriages cut short girls' education, while keeping girls in school longer has proven to be a key tactic to fight the problem. 

Efforts by girls to stay in school meet resistance from parents in poverty, ingrained cultural traditions, and, as we were reminded in Pakistan this week, radical Islamists. A Pakistani Taliban gunman shot twice 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai after she spoke out against the group and its efforts to shut down girls' schooling in Swat. She is recovering in a military hospital. 

In next-door India three years ago, I met Rekha Kalindi, a girl whose fight to stay in school met with less tragedy.


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