As 13-year-old Krupa approached her family home, she became confused. People flocked around. Why were there so many? Who were they?
Spotting her mother, Krupa inquired about the crowd. But her mother dodged the question. Just follow any instruction you might receive, she said.
Krupa’s confusion gave way to fear when she realized her parents were preparing her wedding.
Not Ready for Marriage
UNICEF estimates that 45 percent of women in South Asia aged 20–24 were married before the age of 18. A fifth were married before the age of 15. Krupa was set to be married at 13.
“I was bewildered,” Krupa, now 23, says “as I was only 13 years old. How could my parents think of my marriage?”
Krupa’s prospective husband was quite wealthy, which was why her father, Harshul, considered the proposal.
Krupa looked at her mother and saw a mixture of sadness and resignation in her face. The young girl knew she had to stop the wedding from moving forward, but could she? Could she go against her family, their expectations and the prospect of a little wealth?
Saved by Angels
Krupa knew of the dangers of child marriage. At the Bridge of Hope center she attended, staff taught about the risks of marrying before the age of 18, sharing the social, biological, economical and emotional risks associated with marrying young. Krupa had resolved to never marry until she reached 18 years old.
“Besides,” she says. “I wanted to go to university to study further and become a teacher.”
While preparations for her marriage continued, Krupa secretly borrowed a neighbor’s phone to call the Bridge of Hope staff for help.
“Within just half an hour, they arrived at our house like angels,” Krupa said. “They came directly to me without looking at anyone. … Then they spoke to my parents.”
Krupa’s father admitted marrying her off at such a young age was not right, but the offer was too enticing. Finally, Krupa’s mother, Frawati, had had enough.
“All of a sudden, my mother said that she had seen so many sad cases of child marriage victims, and she did not want me to be one of them,” Krupa says. “My father was shocked at her reaction, as my mother was never so vocal, but this time, she stood up for me.”
The Bridge of Hope staff also explained the ramifications of moving forward with the marriage: Child marriage was, by law, forbidden.
After that, Krupa’s parents canceled her wedding.
A Dream Realized, A Future Saved
Krupa graduated from Bridge of Hope when she was 17 years old. She followed her dreams of studying in a university and is now a teacher—who happily married when she was 20 years old.
“I thank the Bridge of Hope staff for saving me from becoming prey to the trap of child marriage,” Krupa says. “If they were not there, I might have become another case of child marriage. I might have become one of those girls, whom I have seen as sufferers of child marriage. My friends and schoolteachers admire me for my courage, but I am just glad to be an inspiration for many young girls.”
October 11 is International Day of the Girl Child, a day aimed at raising awareness of the struggles faced by girls across the world.Whether it’s by preventing child marriage or ensuring a young girl’s future, Bridge of Hope works to help change the course of their lives for the better.
 “Child marriage.” UNICEF. 28 August 2020. https://www.unicef.org/rosa/what-we-do/child-protection/child-marriage