My mother was married off to my father when she was a sixteen-year-old girl before she finished high school. My grandparents’ figured it would be best for her and in doing that they nipped her own dreams and ambitions in the bud. She had two children by the time she was 19 and after she turned 22 she decided to return back to school and get a degree. After ten years she ended up getting her Master’s in Sociology. My mother always prioritized educating me, no matter what. When my parents didn’t have enough money I often heard her say to my father “I would rather skip my meals than to skip my children’s education.” She felt like life had dealt her an unjust card by denying her the choice of an early education and a career so she fought to make sure her daughters didn’t have to go through what she did. While I saw my uncle’s and aunts around me treating their children different, not giving their daughters the same opportunities they gave their sons it upset me. “Girls don’t need to go to good schools. They need to learn duties at home. Your daughters cannot even make tea yet. What good is that?” I heard aunts tell my mother. But my mother never budged. She always made sure she did her best for us given the conservative, traditional family she was part of. When I was eighteen and left Nepal, I had to feed and take care of myself. I lost my support system and for the first time realized that it was going to be a tough battle. My education suffered since feeding myself came first. The situation I found myself in, denied me the access to an education. Only after some challenging life’s experiences and growth, I finally found my own way. Through the years of understanding and learning things, I have begun to realize that the biggest challenge I see girls facing to access an education is lack of access to economic equality. When families don’t have money to eat, they hardly think of educating their daughters. When conservative and dogmatic traditions are added to this pot, the girls are viewed as temporary guests in their own parent’s homes; socio cultural barriers teach girls its more important to look beautiful and take care of their homes rather than to analyze, think or be intellectually advanced. Boys are given a chance at better life choices and education because they are seen as future breadwinners for the family. Girls are to be given away to another home, to a man whom she then has to serve. So investing in her education is often seen of as a waste of money. It is also this lack of economic equality that forces families to sell their daughters as child brides and prostitutes. This economic barrier that was put up against my own education had to be brought down by me once I understood that I was not to blame but rather a victim of inequality. I did not do this alone but was helped by various strong members of my community, both men and women. When it got especially tough, they held me up so I wouldn’t give up but continue to push through. This is the support that women need. They need to be told that they are worth fighting for and their voices are worth listening to. The only way these barriers in our society can be brought down is when the barriers in our minds are first brought down. We as women have to work together, to fight together and include all our allies in this fight so we can defeat inequalities, patriarchy, and feudal traditions. It is my life goal to fight and overcome obstacles placed in our paths that stop us from developing our full potential. Through careful analyzing, understanding the problems that we face, addressing those problems and then raising awareness about them, we can finally change our society.
Take action! This post was submitted in response to Girls Transform the World 2013.