India: The School For Child Brides
The Veerni Institute in Rajasthan provides free education, meals, and board for child brides across the state.
Around 75% of Rajasthan lives in rural areas, and the state has a sex ratio of 928 females per 1,000 males—lower than the national average. Moreover, despite the state’s average literacy rate of 66.11%, female literacy is much lower at a dismal 52.12%.
Child marriage is a long-standing practice in Rajasthan, and about 30 of the students at Veerni are already married. They may be as young as 9 or 10 when they are married, but normally they aren't sent to live with their husbands until around age 15. The Veerni staff has made a deal with their parents: If you're willing to delay the delivery of your daughter to her in-laws, we'll bring her to the city and give her a free education.
In 10 years, 99 girls have completed their exams and 69 of them have gone on to higher education. Only one former child bride has “been returned” to her husband, and she hit international headlines shortly afterwards for insisting upon her right to a divorce. The others have all won scholarships to study at university, while their husbands wait at home.
The hope is that by the time they graduate, they’ll be armed with the tools to escape the marriage altogether.