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Young Adult Fiction Coming Of Age

Shanti Fights for Her Rights

by (author) Marcia E. Barss

OC Publishing
Initial publish date
Feb 2023
Coming of Age, Girls & Women
Recommended Age
14 to 18
Recommended Grade
9 to 12
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2023
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Feb 2023
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


Fourteen-year-old Shanti’s home is in a village in eastern India, where her parents work in the rice fields. She attends school in a town forty kilometres away and hopes to become a teacher. But while she is home on vacation, her mother gives birth to another girl. Shanti’s father declares she must leave school to care for her baby sister. He also makes plans for Shanti to be married as soon as possible, despite the law against girls under eighteen being forced into marriage.

Will Shanti defy her father and village traditions, and find a way to stay in school and postpone marriage? Can she and her friends convince him, and their community, that educating girls will benefit the village? Follow Shanti and her friends as they fight for their right to determine their own future.

This ebook is Global Certified Accessible (GCA) through eBOUND Canada and Benetech.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Marcia lived in India for most of her childhood. She attended Kodaikanal International School in South India, and spent vacations with her parents who worked in Andhra Pradesh. After graduation from Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada, she moved to London, Ontario, where she raised her family and worked as an early childhood educator. A few years ago, Marcia returned to India, visiting people she knew and places she had lived. A highlight on that visit was staying with friends at Bridge of Hope, an NGO that includes a residential program for children from rural communities, vocational training, and a medical center. Marcia’s experiences in India and talking with girls who were determined to get an education despite challenges, provided inspiration for this book.

Excerpt: Shanti Fights for Her Rights (by (author) Marcia E. Barss)


I poured water from the bucket into my brass pot and handed the bucket to my friend Danya. Two other girls were chatting at the well, waiting for a turn to fill their pots. “I have to hurry home,” I said, placing the pot on my head. “The midwife thinks my mother will deliver the baby very soon.” “I’ll walk with you,” Danya said. “I’m glad the baby waited until we were on holidays.” I laughed. “My mother and grandmother are glad too, so I can help with everything for a few weeks. I'm excited about the baby, but I’d rather be away at school where we don’t have to carry water and wash clothes in the river and cook meals over a smokey fire.” “It’ll be years before life in our village is more like life in town,” Danya said as we walked on the dirt path between rows of houses, some with brick walls and tin roofs, others with mud walls and roofs of thatched palm leaves. “I heard one of the girls at school saying that her village finally got mobile service,” I said. “Let's hope we’ll get a cellphone tower near our village soon. It’d be fun to phone our friends when we’re home on holidays.” We were near my home when we heard a long wail. “That came from your house,” Danya said. I put both hands on my pot to keep it balanced on my head as I hurried home. Chickens scattered out of my way when I stepped onto our veranda. I set the pot down and paused at our doorway, which was covered with a sari when my mother started in labour. I heard a baby's cry. "Mother? May I come in?" "Yes, come," the midwife answered. I held the sari back and entered the shadowy room. The smell of blood was the first thing I noticed. "Is the baby okay? Are you?" "Oh, Shanti, another girl. I'm so unlucky," my mother wailed. "Shh," said the midwife as she gently wrapped the squirming baby in a towel. She placed her in my arms and turned back to attend to my mother. My grandmother was cleaning up the mess from the birthing. Tears filled my eyes as I looked at the baby's face. "She's beautiful. I'm happy to have a little sister." "No, no, your father will be so angry I didn't give him a son," my mother moaned. My grandmother shook her head and muttered, “He’ll soon find a husband for Shanti.” I was stunned. Father couldn’t do that to me. “But I’m only fourteen. I’m doing well in school, and it’s against the law for girls to get married before they’re eighteen.” My grandmother grunted. “That doesn’t matter in our village. Your sister was married at your age. Balamani didn’t need school to learn how to cook and look after her husband.” I pressed my lips together so I wouldn’t say something disrespectful. I looked at my new sister. She opened her dark eyes wide and gazed at me. Love filled my heart and I smiled at her. "Don't listen to them, little one,” I whispered. “We'll show them girls can do anything. We must have big dreams. I promise I’ll do my best at school and teach you everything I can.” “Shanti, bring the baby to your mother to feed,” the midwife said. She settled my sister against my mother’s breast. I was amazed at how such a tiny baby knew what to do to get milk. My mother smiled as she gently ran her fingers over the baby’s cheek. “She looks like you did, Shanti.” I hoped she wouldn’t say anything more about wanting a boy.

Editorial Reviews

Girls in rural India face many challenges because parents are not interested in investing in the education of their daughters. I have stopped many child marriages, but sometimes we don’t know the difficulties girls go through with their families. Balika sanghas are the only forums which help in bringing the girls together to voice their issues and help each other to achieve their dreams. I am sure those who read this beautiful story will realise the ill effects of child marriages and try to support girls. Dr. Mamatha Raghuveer Achanta, Founder of Tharuni

“Shanti features a feisty yet sympathetic and relatable main character, a compelling plot, and lots of authentic detail about the challenging lives of girls and women in rural India. This timely and well-written story will have readers cheering Shanti and her friends on, as they fight for their rights to an education and an end to child marriage. Just like me, both children and adults will love and learn from this heartfelt book!” Vivien Gorham, author of Touch of Gold and Spirit of Summerwood

“A beautifully detailed, suspenseful story about a young girl fighting to free herself from an impossible situation. Shanti’s courage in standing up for her rights against the culture of her community and her family’s wishes helps other girls do the same and shows how one voice can make a difference.” Jacqueline Halsey, author of Piper