girl rising

Bend it like Bihar: Young girls are joining football clubs to resist child marriage

Apart from playing the beautiful game, Bihar’s Sukanya Clubs raise awareness about underage marriage of girls.

In two unique initiatives, two separate groups of girls are fighting against rampant child marriage in rural Bihar by forming Sukanya Clubs at the panchayat level, and by encouraging girls to play football. They are using the clubs for meetings, interaction and awareness, and playing football as a tool to create awareness and build up confidence among themselves to stand on their own against marriages before they are 18 years old.

Fourteen-year-old Nushrat Perween and 16-year-old Chandrarekha Kumari look relaxed under a mango tree after happily playing with other girls of their age. They have refused to marry during the ongoing lagan (traditional marriage season during the summer). Both are residents of a village bordering Nepal in Bihar’s West Champaran district, where Mahatma Gandhi started his first Satyagraha against British rule 100 years ago in 1917.

They are lucky like nearly a dozen other minor girls, who were saved from underage marriage in rural Champaran, thanks to a unique initiative started by a group of girls at the village level. These girls have been fighting against child marriage with the help of elected representatives of the panchayat and some local educated men and women.

No to child marriage

“I have refused to marry and managed to convince my parents not to marry me and allow me to study after I came into contract with a group of local girls, who informed me about child marriage, its bad impact on health, education and our empowerment,” Nushrat, who lives in Mangalpur village, told “They supported me when I shocked my parents by saying that I will not marry till I complete my education.”

A student of Class 7 at a government school, Nushrat has now joined the core team of girls spreading awareness against child marriage. She is one of the hundreds of girls at the forefront of a campaign in villages like Mangalpur, Bodsar, Karmaha, Naraingarh and Sidhaon.

Chandrarekha, a school dropout, has also refused to marry, thanks to her association with the Sukanya Club. “We have been regularly meeting and interacting with local girls and organising a formal meeting at the panchayat every two months to discuss issues of health, education, gender discrimination and domestic violence,” she says. “We hold special orientation camps for girls with a focus to develop their ability to decide against early marriage. It has been proving fruitful.”

Members of a Sukanya Club express solidarity at a meeting in West Champaran district. (Credit: Mohd Imran Khan)
Members of a Sukanya Club express solidarity at a meeting in West Champaran district. (Credit: Mohd Imran Khan)

Successful effort

“Nearly 250 girls aged between 14 and 18 years in 10 panchayats in Bagaha block in West Champaran have joined as leaders of Sukanya Club to fight against child marriage,” Akhtari Begum, who heads a voluntary organisation called Izad, told “Our small effort to create awareness and motivate local village girls to join this campaign against child marriage has proved successful. So far, five or six girls have come forward themselves and refused to marry and some managed to convinced their parents to delay their marriage for the next two to three years till they reach 18 years.”

Lakhsmi Khatri, one of the leading faces of the campaign against child marriage in 10 panchayats, recalled that she started it with a small group of five girls that has now increased to hundreds. “We have started work with a resolution – My Life My Right – that has slowly spread and our numbers have increased,” she said.

Playing football

Another group of girls have been promoting and encouraging girls in nearly a dozen panchayats in rural Patna and Samastipur districts to play football and exchange views on education, career, health and empowerment to ensure them help and strength to say no to child marriage.

Pallaavi Kumari, 15 years old and a Class 9 student, was under tremendous pressure to marry this year, but she refused after joining the football team. A Dalit resident of Gaunpura village, she said, “I got a chance to play football in a field that boosted my confidence to say no to what I don’t want.”

“We have began a small initiative called Its My Body with only two girls to promote football playing among village girls to create awareness against the child marriage. It was not only difficult but impossible to get sufficient time and free space to talk to these girls and inform them about bad effect of child marriage on their health to education and life at their respective houses with their parents and elders around. So, we decided to motivate to bring them to the field to play football to give them confidence, increase their willpower and fill them with awareness to take their own decision to refuse to child marriage,” Pratima Kumari, 35, a victim of child marriage herself and the brain behind introducing football among village girls, told

Spreading the game

Nearly 500 girls in 25 villages under five panchayats – Sakraicha, Dhibra, Gaunpura, Parsa and Sorumpur in Phulwarisharief administrative block – have been successfully trained to play football. “Thanks to football, these girls have got unbelievable confidence to take move in life. It is something that has given them understanding and encouraged them to say no to child marriage,” says Pratima Kumari, who has been promoting football through her organisation, Gauraav Gramin Mahila Vikas Manch.

Pratima Kumari, a Dalit, admitted that child marriage is a big social problem among Dallits, Other Backward Classes and Muslims due to low literacy rates. “Keeping education as main agenda in mind, when I started working among Dalits and other marginalised sections like OBCs and Muslims since 2013, I requested and convinced parents during meetings in village after village to let their daughter complete higher education. We have used football as a tool to reach out to the root of the problem.”

She says her work was recognized by CREA, a feminist human rights organisation based in New Delhi, which also helped her organise regular training to girls. Pratima said playing football has helped three Muslim girls in Murgiyachaak village and five Muslim girls in Adhapa village refuse underage marriage.

Dowry dynamics

Vipin Kumar, communication coordinator of Save the Children in Bihar, said girls are still considered a burden in rural areas and families are eager to get rid of them. In fact, lower dowry also plays an important role in promoting girl child marriage. Parents have to pay higher dowry if their daughters become adults. “Due to lack of awareness and mental setup for ages, a large number of people believe that start of menstruation is a clear indication that a girl is fit and ready for marriage and child birth,” he pointed out.

Neelu, chairperson of the Mahila Jagran Kendra in Patna, said during the ongoing marriage season, hundreds of underage marriages have been taking place at dozens of well-known temples across the state. She cited the example of the famous Vishnupad temple in Gaya and several other temples in Patna, Aurangabaad, Madhubani, Saharsa, Muzafffarpur and Bhagalpur. could not independently verify this.

Improvement in Bihar

Till a few years ago, Bihar accounted for 69% of child marriages in India. But the latest National Family Health Survey-4 revealed that the figure has declined in the past 10 years due to increase in education among girls. Bihar has recorded a decline of 30 percentage points in child marriage between 2005-2006 and 2015-2016, the survey shows. Still, 39.1% of child marriages take place in the state. In fact, in 19 of 38 districts of Bihar, the percentage of child marriage is above 40%.

Taking the National Family Health Survey-4 data on child marriage seriously, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is set to launch a massive campaign against child marriage on the lines of his successful prohibition against alcohol.

After the chief minister announced it last month at an official function of Champaran Satyagraha, the state government has assigned the task to top officials to prepare a detailed plan to launch a campaign, according to N Vijaya Lakshmi, managing director, Women Development Corporation.

This article first appeared on Village Square.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Behind the garb of wealth and success, white collar criminals are hiding in plain sight

Understanding the forces that motivate leaders to become fraudsters.

Most con artists are very easy to like; the ones that belong to the corporate society, even more so. The Jordan Belforts of the world are confident, sharp and can smooth-talk their way into convincing people to bend at their will. For years, Harshad Mehta, a practiced con-artist, employed all-of-the-above to earn the sobriquet “big bull” on Dalaal Street. In 1992, the stockbroker used the pump and dump technique, explained later, to falsely inflate the Sensex from 1,194 points to 4,467. It was only after the scam that journalist Sucheta Dalal, acting on a tip-off, broke the story exposing how he fraudulently dipped into the banking system to finance a boom that manipulated the stock market.


In her book ‘The confidence game’, Maria Konnikova observes that con artists are expert storytellers - “When a story is plausible, we often assume it’s true.” Harshad Mehta’s story was an endearing rags-to-riches tale in which an insurance agent turned stockbroker flourished based on his skill and knowledge of the market. For years, he gave hope to marketmen that they too could one day live in a 15,000 sq.ft. posh apartment with a swimming pool in upmarket Worli.

One such marketman was Ketan Parekh who took over Dalaal Street after the arrest of Harshad Mehta. Ketan Parekh kept a low profile and broke character only to celebrate milestones such as reaching Rs. 100 crore in net worth, for which he threw a lavish bash with a star-studded guest-list to show off his wealth and connections. Ketan Parekh, a trainee in Harshad Mehta’s company, used the same infamous pump-and-dump scheme to make his riches. In that, he first used false bank documents to buy high stakes in shares that would inflate the stock prices of certain companies. The rise in stock prices lured in other institutional investors, further increasing the price of the stock. Once the price was high, Ketan dumped these stocks making huge profits and causing the stock market to take a tumble since it was propped up on misleading share prices. Ketan Parekh was later implicated in the 2001 securities scam and is serving a 14-years SEBI ban. The tactics employed by Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh were similar, in that they found a loophole in the system and took advantage of it to accumulate an obscene amount of wealth.


Call it greed, addiction or smarts, the 1992 and 2001 Securities Scams, for the first time, revealed the magnitude of white collar crimes in India. To fill the gaps exposed through these scams, the Securities Laws Act 1995 widened SEBI’s jurisdiction and allowed it to regulate depositories, FIIs, venture capital funds and credit-rating agencies. SEBI further received greater autonomy to penalise capital market violations with a fine of Rs 10 lakhs.

Despite an empowered regulatory body, the next white-collar crime struck India’s capital market with a massive blow. In a confession letter, Ramalinga Raju, ex-chairman of Satyam Computers convicted of criminal conspiracy and financial fraud, disclosed that Satyam’s balance sheets were cooked up to show an excess of revenues amounting to Rs. 7,000 crore. This accounting fraud allowed the chairman to keep the share prices of the company high. The deception, once revealed to unsuspecting board members and shareholders, made the company’s stock prices crash, with the investors losing as much as Rs. 14,000 crores. The crash of India’s fourth largest software services company is often likened to the bankruptcy of Enron - both companies achieved dizzying heights but collapsed to the ground taking their shareholders with them. Ramalinga Raju wrote in his letter “it was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten”, implying that even after the realisation of consequences of the crime, it was impossible for him to rectify it.

It is theorised that white-collar crimes like these are highly rationalised. The motivation for the crime can be linked to the strain theory developed by Robert K Merton who stated that society puts pressure on individuals to achieve socially accepted goals (the importance of money, social status etc.). Not having the means to achieve those goals leads individuals to commit crimes.

Take the case of the executive who spent nine years in McKinsey as managing director and thereafter on the corporate and non-profit boards of Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble, American Airlines, and Harvard Business School. Rajat Gupta was a figure of success. Furthermore, his commitment to philanthropy added an additional layer of credibility to his image. He created the American India Foundation which brought in millions of dollars in philanthropic contributions from NRIs to development programs across the country. Rajat Gupta’s descent started during the investigation on Raj Rajaratnam, a Sri-Lankan hedge fund manager accused of insider trading. Convicted for leaking confidential information about Warren Buffet’s sizeable investment plans for Goldman Sachs to Raj Rajaratnam, Rajat Gupta was found guilty of conspiracy and three counts of securities fraud. Safe to say, Mr. Gupta’s philanthropic work did not sway the jury.


The people discussed above have one thing in common - each one of them was well respected and celebrated for their industry prowess and social standing, but got sucked down a path of non-violent crime. The question remains - Why are individuals at successful positions willing to risk it all? The book Why They Do It: Inside the mind of the White-Collar Criminal based on a research by Eugene Soltes reveals a startling insight. Soltes spoke to fifty white collar criminals to understand their motivations behind the crimes. Like most of us, Soltes expected the workings of a calculated and greedy mind behind the crimes, something that could separate them from regular people. However, the results were surprisingly unnerving. According to the research, most of the executives who committed crimes made decisions the way we all do–on the basis of their intuitions and gut feelings. They often didn’t realise the consequences of their action and got caught in the flow of making more money.


The arena of white collar crimes is full of commanding players with large and complex personalities. Billions, starring Damien Lewis and Paul Giamatti, captures the undercurrents of Wall Street and delivers a high-octane ‘ruthless attorney vs wealthy kingpin’ drama. The show looks at the fine line between success and fraud in the stock market. Bobby Axelrod, the hedge fund kingpin, skilfully walks on this fine line like a tightrope walker, making it difficult for Chuck Rhoades, a US attorney, to build a case against him.

If financial drama is your thing, then block your weekend for Billions. You can catch it on Hotstar Premium, a platform that offers a wide collection of popular and Emmy-winning shows such as Game of Thrones, Modern Family and This Is Us, in addition to live sports coverage, and movies. To subscribe, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.