By Rena Tanjung; Edited by Leanna Cappiello
Asti recalls the day her future was determined for her.
Three years ago, at the age of 16, her parents accepted a dowry for her marriage. It was a dark day for Asti, as her dream to continue in her high school education was pushed aside to make way for something she didn't want. The memory of how frightened she was is still fresh in her mind as she told the story.
Asti had been matched with her cousin since childhood, but she didn't want to get married so young. "I didn't want to get married. I wanted to go to school and be a teacher. I felt worthless at that time," she cried.
Asti's heart was broken: she was given no choice and felt as though she had lost her dream. As her peers began to enroll in high school, she was left behind to deal with wedding arrangements.
Asti is one of many teenage girls who are not given a choice for their own futures. Matchmaking for young girls is a tradition that is still in practice in this community. Teenagers are forced to get married, and in some cases, give up school.
Through the World Vision children's club that Asti visits, she discovered a child protection agency. Delila, a team member, taught Asti about child rights, including a right to education. She continued to read the resources that Delila gave her.
Soon, Asti found the courage to tell her story to Delila, and with the help of the child protection agency, Asti's parents were educated on the dangers of child marriage and the benefits of education. Thankfully, she was released of her early marriage obligation and continued with school as she desired.
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"I'm happy that finally I didn't get married. I can go to school and reach my dreams. My parents finally understand my rights and they didn't force me to get married anymore," says Asti.
Asti is now 19 years old. She has just finished her high school education, and is known as a part-time teacher at an early childhood education center. Now her future is brighter. "I'm grateful," she beams. "I want to save money to enroll in college," she explains.
Once she has saved up enough money, her goal is to continue her university education. "I really want to be a teacher," she says, expressing delight at the possibility of teaching the children in her village.