Magic Bus was thrilled this year to have two of our participants nominated for the prestigious 2019 International Children’s Peace Prize. The prize, formally won by such notable young campaigners as Malala Yousafzai and March for Our Lives, is awarded by the KidsRights Foundation to the child (or group of children) that has made a significant contribution by advocating for children’s rights and improving the lives of vulnerable children. Magic Bus’ two nominees are Rakiba and Ramya, both of whom are working tirelessly to bring an end to child marriage within their communities.

Rakiba, age 16, had a tough fight to convince her parents the she and her sister be allowed to go to school. After much effort and convincing, Rakiba and her sister were successfully enrolled at their local school. However, when Rakiba turned 12 her parents decided that it was time for her to drop-out of school and get married. Rakiba was having none of it however, having learnt at school and from Magic Bus how important her education was, and what harm could befall her if she got married at such a young age. Rakiba chose to stand up to her parents, protesting against the decision that was being made for her. By threatening to report her parents to the police, Rakiba was able to convince them that this marriage was wrong, and that only she could decide when it was time to get married.

Today, Rakiba is leader of a group of young women known as Shakti Vahini, and they are standing up against gender discrimination and violence within their community. To date, Rakiba and Shakti Vahini have helped prevent six more child marriages from going ahead.

“Education is the only way to make your life better. It is never too late to start… but it is important to continue, and to continue with more faith in yourself.”

Ramya, age 13, is from Karnataka and a member of the Shillekyatha tribe. Amongst the tribe, it is traditional to stage street shows as a way of earning a living, a practice that Ramya’s family took part in. When she turned 11, Ramya’s parents decided that it was time for her to be married off, in order to continue the family tradition. But Ramya knew that this wasn’t right, and quickly confided in her Magic Bus Youth Mentor about what was about to happen. The youth mentor then got in touch with Ramya’s parents, and was able to convince them that marriage was the wrong choice for Ramya, and they cancelled the plans for the wedding.

Safe from the dangers of child marriage, Ramya quickly realised that others in her community, including her friends, could fall prey to the same circumstances.

Ramya began helping other girls avoid child marriage, including her own sister. Under pressure to have one of their daughters get married in order to participate in the street performing profession, Ramya’s parents decided that her younger sister would be married off. It was thanks to Ramya’s quick intervention, by contacting the local police station, that another child marriage was prevented. Since then, Ramya has helped prevent two more child marriages.

“Early marriage is harmful to a girl child. Girls should not marry before the completion of 18 years of age. It affects her health, education and life. I stopped my early marriage and have taken preventive measures in my community with the support of Magic Bus. Please prevent early marriages and support girl children education in your communities.”

The 2019 International Children’s Peace Award was won by Greta Thunberg of Sweden and Divina Maloum of Cameroon, and we congratulate them both on winning, and for the amazing impact they’ve both made.

Although they didn’t win, we’re still incredibly proud of the efforts made by both Rakiba and Ramya have made to bring an end to the scourge of child marriage within their communities, and can’t wait to see the positive change that we’re sure they’ll help bring about in the future.

But Rakiba, Ramya, and thousands of girls like them still need your help. Child marriage continues to destroy the lives of girls and young women all across India, and your donation will give them the support they need to reject the nightmare of child marriage, and to build a brighter future of their own choosing.

Click here to donate today.