Newly translated from the French by Sarah Lawson, The Strength To Say No: One Girl’s Fight Against Forced Marriageis an inspiring account by Rekha Kalindi of her refusal to accede to parental and cultural demands that, as a child, she should be forced to marry. A publishing sensation in France, and now published in English for the first time, Kalindi’s story and her advocacy of the rights of women and girls bears comparison with that of Nobel laureate and activist Malala Yousafzai.
Born in a remote Bengal village, well over 100 miles away from Calcutta, the nearest large city, eleven-year-old Rekha and her large family subsist by hand-rolling cigarettes. She observes the abrupt departure of her friends who marry and go to live with their mothers-in-law, often becoming little more than slaves. In spite of her youth, Rekha is aware of the harm done to these little girls. Inevitably, Rekha Kalindi’s turn comes. Her parents find a husband for her – a man she doesn’t know – and she flies into a blinding rage at the idea of being taken away from school for good and denied an education.
After persuading her parents 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 marriages. Thanks to her, dozens of children in the region found the courage to say no to this tribal tradition. Her exemplary journey gained her the recognition of the highest courts in the land, and she went on to become a recipient of India’s National Bravery Award and an audience with the president.
Written with the collaboration of distinguished Radio France correspondent Mouhssine Ennaimi, The Strength To Say No, translated from Ennaimi’s acclaimed French edition, is a documentary portrait of one girl’s monumental struggle and an inspiring story to young women all over the world.