This social activist has been working to stop child marriages in Rajasthan for over 17 years now. Usha Choudhary’s journey began as a feisty 14-year-old, when she was almost married off to a stranger ten years older than her.
Determined to continue her education and to forge her own path in life, the teenager fought her family (despite many beatings) successfully and stopped the marriage from taking place.
The incident shaped her life and went on to inspire a lifetime of work, empowering girls in her home state of Rajasthan and beyond to stand up for their rights. In 2004, Choudhary set up the organisation Vikalp Sansthan, to work with young and dynamic volunteers in Rajasthan to campaign against the evils of child marriage, domestic violence and discrimination against women.
“Our team dynamic is founded in feminist democratic principles, and we believe firmly in open doors and the open exchange of ideas. Our dream is to create a society that is equal and just for both men and women,” says the activist, who lives in Udaipur. Vikalp seems to be living the dream rather effectively.
Since its birth, it has stopped 8,000 child marriages, helped with the education of 10,000 girls and dealt with over 2,000 cases of domestic violence. Choudhary, who holds BA and MA degrees in Hindi, works as Vikalp’s Secretary.
She has also worked as a programme co-ordinator with Udaipur’s Aastha Sansthan and with Vishakha and Action Aid’s Lok Adhikar Network. Though satisfied with her work, the social activist says: “I think I have not done anything yet. I still have a long battle to fight.”