NEW DELHI: The life story of Rekha Kalindi from Purilia in West Bengal, who became a hero when she stood up against child marriage as an 11 year-old and fought for her right to study further, is now out in the form of a book.
Titled 'The Strength To Say No," the book has been translated by Sarah Lawson, an American-born Londoner who has authored poetry, non-fiction and plays and translates from French, Spanish and Dutch.
The book written with collaboration of Mouhssine Ennaimi, translated into English from Ennaimi's acclaimed French edition, is a documentary portrait of Kalindi's monumental struggle and an inspiring story for young women all over the world.
Kalindi, now 18, who refused an arranged marriage at the age of just 11 was allegedly beaten and starved by her own mother for doing so.
"I was moved by Rekha's story. For someone so young she has incredible strength and tenacity. She showed immense bravery by standing up against centuries of tradition. I felt compelled to tell her story and give her platform to reach a wider audience, raise awareness, see change and inspire others to do the same," says Ennaimi.
Kalindi now in standard 10 continues to be ambitious in life and wants to be a nurse. Being the poster girl against child marriage through her story she wants girls to follow her footsteps, to shun child marriage and take up education.
"My uncle's daughters have refused to get married until they complete their studies. Earlier, couples would have seven to eight children. Now that they have become aware of the need to educate and feed their children well, they are trying to limit their family size to just two kids. That is a good start," says Kalindi.
It is a book that inspires women to stand up for themselves and also she is a voice for the many children who still are affected by such evils in the society.
Recalling an incident in her life where the power of education gave her the strength to fight, Rekha says women and girls should definitely focus on it and take a lesson.
"I got up and headed for the young man, who must have been be five or six years older than I. I said Do you know the story of Kishalaya? He said No. What is it? And there was a series of questions. With that I turned on my heel and went back into the room and said Your son is an idiot! I won't marry him whatever my parents say!" says Rekha in the book.
"I could refuse a boy by asking him general knowledge questions emphasising the role of education in one's life. If I didn't go to school, I would have never had that knowledge or the confidence to turn away a boy on the basis of his ignorance," she says.
After persuading them not to marry her off against her will, Rekha goes from village to village to tell her story and to explain the tragic consequences of early marriage. Thanks to her, dozens of children in the region found the courage to say no to this tradition.
"I only want girls like me to draw inspiration from the book. If I could do it, so can they. The more people read about it, the greater the impact will be. When I get married and have children, I want my kids to read it and be proud of what their mother did," says Rekha.
The recipient of India's National Bravery Award, Rekha has also been featured along with Malala and Anne Frank in the book "Children Who Changed The World" marking the 25th anniversary of the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child.