Sruti, a beautiful and a very well mannered lady in her thirties, used to work in our house in India as a domestic help. No matter how severely she was beaten the previous night by her husband or how tired or unwell she was, she would always wear a soothing smile on her face. Her bruises, struggles, and pain used to make me angry. I got to know that her parents and three grown-up brothers lived quite close by and they used to financially support Sruti to raise her children and buy the essentials, as her alcoholic husband would not even pay a penny towards the family expenses.
I became extremely intrigued to figure out, why was she enduring so much of pain by living with that man, despite having a good support system of her own family? What gradually unfolded was a very bitter but well-known reality .
I asked her one day “Why do you stay with him?”
“He is my husband”
“How can I leave him? Society will never accept me if I leave him, neither will my parents”
“But the society is not there to protect you from physical and mental torture or to bring food for your kids. Why do you need to care?”
” What happened to me was my destiny, but I can not bring disgrace to my parents by leaving my husband’s home”, she replied with a smile on her face.
Her parents did not want to spend money on her education and she was married at the age of 14 with a man twice her age. Her brother and parents were ready to support her financially to raise her kids, but they could not even imagine that she could ever leave her husband.
Meenakshi, the other woman who used to help us in cooking, also had a similar but a little different story.
Unable to bear the torture of her husband, she came back to her parents’ home with her six-month-old son, two years after her marriage. Her husband and parents tried to convince her to return, but she was really determined never to go back to that hell again.
She was in the first year of her college when her parents fixed her marriage almost overnight, unable to bear the torment of the society anymore, with an illiterate guy. Pleading them to let her finish her Bachelors fell on deaf ears.
She was equally poor and helpless as Sruti, but could not bear the torture after a certain point.
Unlike Sruti, she used to feel her parents were responsible for whatever happened to her. She would often tell me, had her parents not considered her as a burden or not listened to the society, her life could have been totally different.
Unlike Sruti, she was determined to change her destiny. She wanted to save enough money to set up a small business someday. She also used to dream of going back to college once her son would grow up.
Even though she was helpless in stopping her marriage against her wish, she could eventually bounce back to lead the life of her choice. I feel what set her apart was her education. The major difference between these two women was their level of education.
Education is the most powerful tools to empowerment. Societies inability to see the value of educating the girls is a deeply rooted gender discrimination.
According to an UNICEF report, in 2016 Around 61 million girls were of school. Ensuring equal access and rights to quality education is a very important step in creating a gender-equal world. Educated girls develop skill and knowledge. Education give them more control over their lives and situations. An educated female population also helps in economic growth and productivity of a country.
It is very important to raise awareness in the community about the benefits of girls education. When girls are married early and do not have secondary education, they will not be able to be economically independent or to contribute to the family income. They also have less or no decision making power on family planning. The vicious cycle of poverty and oppression keeps repeating.
Please read this post on child marriage and It’s socio-economic impact for a deeper understanding of this issue.