Nine girls from remote Maharashtra were given United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Navjyoti awards for resisting child marriages and also helping other girls fight the scourge.
"Navjyoti is a state-level platform to showcase the achievements of young women, who go on to play a greater role by turning into role models for their peers and catalysts of
change in their communities," UNICEF Chief, Mumbai, Rajeshwari Chandrasekar said.
Fifteen-year-old Sunita Wachami from the Maoist-hit district of Gadchiroli thwarted all efforts to marry her off, to achieve her dreams of becoming an IPS officer.
When by her elder brother and sister asked Sunita to choose between getting married and enlisting as a Maoist, she chose education instead.
"I refused to drop out of school. I told them I wanted to complete my education and become an IPS officer," Sunita said.
She now studies in Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, a government-run residential school for vulnerable girls in Bhamragad.
Another girl, Asha Tonde, a class 10 student and budding wrestler, came all the way from Kedarbasti village in Parbhani district to Mumbai, to receive the award.
16-year-old Asha, who is one of the four children of farm labourers, was deeply affected by the plight of her siblings who were married off at an early age and it made her determined to seek a better life through education.
"From a very young age I was certain that I didn't want to disrupt my education by marrying before 18 years. I had seen what had happened to my older siblings. So, when a marriage proposal came for me last Diwali, I immediately protested. I have dreams of becoming an IPS officer someday," Asha said.