I Failed at Unshackling a Girl Child
I know a lovely lady who used to help my family run our home. I stole her from my mum and asked her to help me run my home when I got married (Sorry, ma).
This lady has two children, a girl and a boy. The girl is about 8 years younger than I am. She’s sharp, shy and beautiful. She used to kill time at our home while her mother was busy cleaning it. She would ask me to help her with her homework and, more often than not, we would end up playing ‘School’. I did help but also acted like a mean old teacher. I gave her crosses and poor marks with a red ballpoint pen in her notebook. I scolded her when she wouldn’t be able to solve a mathematics problem that was way too complicated for a child her age. Yes, I was a spoilt little brat sometimes.
I remember this one incident when I was helping her read from a fairytale book. She kept trying to pronounce the word ‘treasure’ and it repeatedly came out as ‘trejer’. After a few trials, when I thought she just wouldn’t get it right, I got up in a huff and ran off to play with my friends.
She didn’t come home for 3 days after that, but, when she did on the fourth day, her first words to me were “Didi, treasure”. Bang on girl!! I looked at her and she beamed with a grin that would forever be etched in my memory. Instead of giving up on a language she never felt needed learning, she struggled with that one word till she got it just right.
This charming, enthusiastic girl was told to stop studying and get married at the age of 18. She never protested because she didn’t know she had other options. Not that her protest would get her anywhere.
It’s not that her family had any ill feelings towards her and wanted to send her away. And, not that money was an issue either. That aspect could have easily been taken care of. Although the mother loves both her children to absolute bits, she was worried about what their community would say when they saw an unwed girl of 18 still living at her parent’s home.
Believe you me, I tried stopping her mother and extended family from doing that to the child. All of my pleas, harsh words, explanations and requests fell upon deaf ears. Each of her family members had a similar reaction to my protest; she does not need to study! What will people say! She’s 18! She needs a husband! She can even cook now! So on and so forth.
Well, congratulations little girl. They got her married within months of the decision. She had her first child a little after she turned 19. She had her second child a couple of years after that. How nice for her, no? A husband, a new family, two kids before she’s even 20 years old.
Please understand, I am not against marriage and a family and only for education. But, can’t a girl have both? I know that many of us do but, why only the ones who can afford to?
Her brother, on the other hand, must study till he is capable enough to get a job so he can support another girl who will be forced to quit school and get married.
I wish I had succeeded in convincing her family to let her study and not marry her off just yet. Do you think this one case would change the mind of a neighbouring mother? Maybe two after that? I certainly believe it was possible. Who knows where this bright young girl would be today if she were given a shot at education. Who knows where how many girls will be tomorrow if they’re given this opportunity.
I’ll simply end by requesting you to give your best shot to convince the parents of one girl child to let her study and get an education. Start with people you know. Start with your neighbourhood. Start with one Puneri mulgi and the country will follow.
I have rarely felt so helpless as when I did when I could not convince the girl’s family to let her study further. Even though years have passed, I still wonder what I could have done differently to make it happen.
How do you think one can persuade a family to let their girl receive an education?
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Image in the article: www.womenseducationproject.org