The Power of Choice

Chu, 15 years old, shares her story of a H'Mong girl who refused early marriage

With youthful tenacity and the transformative power of choice, Chu, a 15-year-old H'Mong girl, refused early marriage and became a beacon for girls facing similar challenges.

Adult, Female, Person
Chu, 15, participating a Child, Early, and Forced Marriage communication session in her village. Photo credit: Plan International

“One day I will attend college, secure a stable job, get married, and fill my life with happiness,” Chu, a 15-year-old H’Mong girl penned in her diary after attending a training course on early marriage prevention organised by the Time to Act! Project. Little did the young girl foresee that her simple aspiration would soon ignite a firestorm of conflict.

The tranquil bubble of Chu’s 9th-grade year burst when the parents of Chu’s boyfriend came to her house with a marriage proposal on behalf of their son, whom Chu had barely known after only two dates. Two brief outings did not make them soulmates, he had never expressed his love for her and she had no intention of choosing him as her husband either. Feeling uncertain and worried, she confided in her father, expressing her reluctance. Her father reassured her, saying, “Our family is only considering the proposal. You don’t have to get married yet; you can stay with us.”

Clothing, Hat, Adult
Chu participating in a competition with her Champions of Change club. Photo credit: Plan International

Chu found solace in her father’s unwavering support. The sudden prospect of sacrificing her dreams for a quickly arranged union felt suffocating and she could not feel easy to let herself settle down in such rushed manner.

The Weight of Traditions and Social Norms

But traditional and social norms weighed heavily, threatening to eclipse her autonomy. Against Chu’s hope, her father informed her that the groom’s family didn’t want her to further her education. They believed that dormitory, the major accommodation for local girls attending high school away from home, is a living environment too complicated for a girl. Upset and angered, Chu reminded her father of his promise but the groom’s family proved less yielding, insisting on an immediate marriage.

“I want to go to school! I want to go to school!” Chu helplessly repeated to her father. This was not the future she had envisioned.

“I want to go to school! I want to go to school!”

Chu repeated to her father.
Adult, Female, Person
Chu is dancing with her friend in their communication session. Photo credit: Plan International

Refusing to be a passive participant in her own narrative, Chu sought assistance from her teachers and reached out to a collaborator working for Plan International’s Time to Act! project. The members of the Community’s Child Protection Board visited her home several times to talk with her parents. Eventually, her father agreed not to force her into an early marriage, honoring his promise. However, Chu had missed the entrance examination for high school. Several things happened in such a short time distracted her from the curriculum, and she had learnt that her academic capability might not be sufficient to nail the exam. What could Chu do?

When one door closes, another opens

Herbal, Herbs, Plant
Chu does chore work at home

From several different vocational groups under Plan International’s support that Chu was interested in, she decided to join the Youth Economic Development Club. From mastering pig farming to wielding hairdressing clippers with expertise, each acquired skill was a brick in the foundation of her future. In her free time, she joined the Champions of Change (CoC) Village Club, which is another source of refuge and growth, nurturing friendships, life skills, and a vibrant sense of community. Additionally, she helped her parents on the farm. Her life became busy, but it also brought her much joy: “This wasn’t my how I imagined my life would be. But it’s a life I’m enjoying immensly, because I get to decide how the story unfolds.”

“This wasn’t my how I imagined my life would be. But it’s a life I’m enjoying immensly, because I get to decide how the story unfolds.”


Chu also signed up to become a potential facilitator for CoC clubs. Under the guidance of the current CoC club facilitator, she began delivering short communications to her peers. With every challenge overcome and every skill mastered, Chu blossomed. Her once-timid voice grew confident, inspiring others in the CoC club as a budding facilitator.

Electrical Device, Microphone, Crowd
Chu performing in a play at her CoC club. Photo credit: Plan International

The Power of Choice

Chu chose to prioritise her personal development, becoming an educated and happy woman. She aspired to become a skilled local facilitator and a dedicated local volunteer, supporting the children in her community. Chu chose to prioritize her personal development, becoming an educated and happy woman. She hoped to share her story of a H’Mong girl who refused early marriage as a testament to the tenacity of youth and the transformative power of choice, became a beacon for girls facing similar challenges.

Chu’s journey is not simply a personal triumph; it is a potent symbol of resilience in the face of adversity. It is a testament to the transformative power of education, support systems, and the unshakeable will to forge one’s own path. It is a story that boldly claims, “Yes, you can,” to every girl who dreams of a future built on her own terms.

Protection from violence, Skills and work, Youth empowerment, child marriage, Lifeskills training