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Bride Price India Photo Essay

Family members and guests dance before the wedding of three young girls Radha, 15, Gora, 13, and Rajni, 5, to their young grooms Aleen, Giniaj, and Kaushal. The three couples - three sisters married to three brothers - were married on the Hindu holy day of Akshaya Tritiya, called Akha Teej in North India. The auspicious day is said to bring good luck to couples married then and is widely known in Rajasthan as the day most child marriages occur. Despite legislation forbidding child marriage in India (Child Marriage Restraint Act-1929) and the much more progressive Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (2006) and many initiatives to prevent child marriage, marrying children off at a very tender age continues to be accepted by large sections of society. Stephanie Sinclair/Alexia Foundation

Radha, 15, has the wedding ritual of henne painted on her arms the day before the festivities begin. Three young sisters Radha, 15, Gora, 13, and Rajni, 5, were married to their young grooms Aleen, Giniaj, and Kaushal, who were also siblings, on the Hindu holy day of Akshaya Tritiya, called Akha Teej in North India. The auspicious day is said to bring good luck to couples married then and is widely known in Rajasthan as the day most child marriages occur. Despite legislation forbidding child marriage in India (Child Marriage Restraint Act-1929) and the much more progressive Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (2006) and many initiatives to prevent child marriage, marrying children off at a very tender age continues to be accepted by large sections of society. Stephanie Sinclair/Alexia Foundation

Rajni, 5, sits in her home with her sisters on the day before her wedding. Three young sisters Radha, 15, Gora, 13, and Rajni, 5, were married to their young grooms Aleen, Giniaj, and Kaushal, who were also siblings, on the Hindu holy day of Akshaya Tritiya, called Akha Teej in North India. Despite legislation forbidding child marriage in India (Child Marriage Restraint Act-1929) and the much more progressive Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (2006) and many initiatives to prevent child marriage, marrying children off at a very tender age continues to be accepted by large sections of society. Stephanie Sinclair/Alexia Foundation

Radha, 15, observes herself in a cracked mirror the day before her wedding. Three young sisters Radha, 15, Gora, 13, and Rajni, 5, were married to their young grooms Aleen, Giniaj, and Kaushal, who were also siblings, on the Hindu holy day of Akshaya Tritiya, called Akha Teej in North India. Despite legislation forbidding child marriage in India (Child Marriage Restraint Act-1929) and the much more progressive Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (2006) and many initiatives to prevent child marriage, marrying children off at a very tender age continues to be accepted by large sections of society. Stephanie Sinclair/Alexia Foundation

Rajni, 5, was woken up around 4 am to participate in the wedding ceremony. Here, she is carried by her uncle. Three young sisters Radha, 15, Gora, 13, and Rajni, 5, were married to their young grooms Aleen, Giniaj, and Kaushal, who were also siblings, on the Hindu holy day of Akshaya Tritiya, called Akha Teej in North India. Despite legislation forbidding child marriage in India (Child Marriage Restraint Act-1929) and the much more progressive Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (2006) and many initiatives to prevent child marriage, marrying children off at a very tender age continues to be accepted by large sections of society. Stephanie Sinclair/Alexia Foundation

Kaushal and Rajni, 5, participate in the marriage ceremony after 4 am. Three young sisters Radha, 15, Gora, 13, and Rajni, 5, were married to their young grooms Aleen, Giniaj, and Kaushal, who were also siblings, on the Hindu holy day of Akshaya Tritiya, called Akha Teej in North India. Stephanie Sinclair/Alexia Foundation

Fifteen-year-old Sarita's face, covered in tears and sweat, is covered before she is sent to her new home with her groom. The previous day, she and her young sister, Maya, 8, were married to another set of siblings on the Hindu holy day of Akshaya Tritiya, called Akha Teej in North India. Despite legislation forbidding child marriage in India (Child Marriage Restraint Act-1929) and the much more progressive Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (2006) and many initiatives to prevent child marriage, marrying children off at a very tender age continues to be accepted by large sections of society. Stephanie Sinclair/Alexia Foundation

Maya, 8, and Kishore, 13, pose for a wedding photo inside their new home, the day after the Hindu holy day of Akshaya Tritiya, called Akha Teej in North India. Despite legislation forbidding child marriage in India (Child Marriage Restraint Act-1929) and the much more progressive Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (2006) and many initiatives to prevent child marriage, marrying children off at a very tender age continues to be accepted by large sections of society. Stephanie Sinclair/Alexia Foundation

Children watch Balika Vadhu, a television show currently being broadcast on Colors TV in India. The serial is set up in rural Rajasthan and deals with the practice of child marriage, a social custom still prevalent in parts of India. Rahul Chhabra, spokesman for the Indian Embassy in Washington, says his government "is aware of the problem and trying to do its best," imposing jail terms and fines, even for those attending weddings of underage brides. Stephanie Sinclair/Alexia Foundation

Portrait of Sunil Nayak, 13, inside her bedroom at her home in the rural Rajasthan. Nayak refused her marriage the year before, when she was just 12 years old. She was supposed to wed the same day her two older teenage sisters were married. The night before the event, Sunil's mother tied a string around her wrist and told her she was also to be married. However, Sunil refused, and even threatened violence should she be forced. This caused a major disruption in the village but she was allowed to remain at home and is still in school today. "Girls are gradually saying 'no' to child marriage," said Anil Gulati, a spokesman for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), which works with authorities to fight child marriage. Gulati said girls have become bolder by encouraging each other and getting media publicity for their refusal. "This has a slowly growing momentum which will take some time, but it will have a lot of value." Stephanie Sinclair/Alexia Foundation

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I recently returned from a trip to Asia to document the work of a remarkable NGO, World Neighbors (WN). In 13 countries around the world, WN focuses on training and educating communities to find lasting solutions to the challenges they face — hunger, poverty and disease — rather than giving them food, money or constructing buildings. They ask marginalized farmers in isolated villages what they want to do to improve their lives, and then show them how to use better agricultural techniques, how to form savings and credit groups, and how to develop better health and hygiene. This ten minute film, which I shot in the Madhubani region of Bihar, in Northern India, focusses on two women who represent a shift away from child marriage and caste prejudice towards entrepreneurship and higher education. Chandra Rekha and Jyoti are part of a sea change that is in motion in the Indian countryside. It is explosive and transformational, and serves as inspiration to anyone who wants to improve his or her life.

To watch the video, press the link below —