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‘Say no to child marriage’ initiative attracts crowd at traditional Bhagoriya fair in tribal belt of MP

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Sravani Sarkar

JHABUA/ALIRAJPUR: The considerably harsh afternoon sun or the air thickened by dust hardly bothered the tribal people as they descended in hordes upon the designated fair grounds in Jhabua and Alirajpur district on the first day of the much awaited week-long Bhagoriya fest.

Amidst the clamour of the villagers, especially youngsters, for the typical attractions of the fair like different sized human operated swings and giant wheels, ice-creams and kulfis, photograph booths and dancing to traditional dhol – a small blue kiosk attracted quite some crowd.

And this kiosk, interestingly, was about an issue that the Bhagoriya fest has been traditionally linked to, though with a twist.

The kiosk, put up at two fairs – one each in Jhabua and Alirajpur – urged people to ‘say no to child marriage’ and most of them happily did, while posing with cutouts and mock photo frames replete with slogans on prevention of child marriage.

The kiosk was put up by NGO Vasudha with support of UNICEF office of MP in a bid to create awareness on the issue in districts that have one of the highest percentages of underage marriages in the state.

Since Bhagoriya has been traditionally associated with settling of nuptial ties – either by the elders or the youth by their own choice, the awareness initiative on prevention of child marriage, was received with interest and appreciation.

Vasudha has decided to put up the small awareness kiosk in at least a dozen fair venues over the next week, Gayatri Parihar of the organization said, adding that they thought the occasion to be quite suitable for spreading the message, especially as the fairs attract huge crowd.

At the booth, covered with banners and posters on the issue, members of Vasudha distributed pamphlets highlighting the bad impact of underage marriage, apart from encouraging youngsters to pose with frames and cutouts.

“This is a good way to tell people not to get their children married before the legal age,” Kemal Dabar of Para village in Jhabua said. Savitri, also of the village said that it is important for the girls and boys to study and settle down before marrying.

At the fair in Jobat of Alirajpur, the kiosk saw surprise visit and appreciation with three women government officials. Jobat Janpad Panchayat CEO Deepa Kotasthane, tehsildar Asha Parmar and nayab tehsildar Vandana Kirade who were present at the fair said that it was a good initiative to spread message on important issues.

“This is an effort to reach out to communities and people who make decision for the children. The selection of Bhagoriya fair venues for the important initiative on saying no to child marriage is for making the best of the presence of large number of community members as well as decision makers on the issue,” communication specialist of UNICEF, MP Office, Anil Gulati said.

Sravani Sarkar

Sravani Sarkar has been a journalist for three decades. In the past, she has worked with Lokmat Times, Indian Express, Hindustan Times & The Week