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Apprentice

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.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Girls Transform the World Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring girls greater access to education which will transform their lives, their families, and communities. The Girls Transform Campaign elicits insightful content from young women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as women, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
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Comments

Aminah's picture

inequality

The same story seems to be going round and round.
Girls education is sacrificed when the parents have to make a choice between educating both girls and boys.

Wonder why they do not sacrifice boy's educations. Not that I want it to be that way. But can't help ask why.

Thank you for sharing this.

Regards,
Aminah

Salaam
Aminah

Pooja Pant's picture

yes

Yes sis, I have often asked that too. I know that in my community they are under the misguided notion that boys will take care of them when they are old but girls get married and "belong" to another family. More so than often however, its the girls that end up taking care of her parents!

Sangita Thapa's picture

agree with you!

economic self-sufficiency is one of the massive obstacles in girls' education everywhere. If there's nothing to eat, how can the parents even think about education. Besides socio-cultural barriers, girls must also pass through the family's economic ordeals. Your article is not only a personal account but an informative piece on our society, thanks for the post.

Pooja Pant's picture

:)

Thank you sis for your support!

Pooja,

Thank you for sharing your story. "The only way these barriers in our society can be brought down is when the barriers in our minds are first brought down." - I could not agree more. I would love to hear what ideas you have for how we can help each other tear down the barriers that stop us from actualizing our dreams.

Best,
Amanda

Pooja Pant's picture

thank u

thank you for reading and for your comment. I think it would require a long discussion and brainstorming sessions on how can help each other break these barriers. :)

ccontreras's picture

I admire you!

Thank you for sharing your story! I really admire your mother and you for not following what would be considered the norms society has created for women to follow. It is women like you and your mother who are opening up a new path for young women out there to realize that they do not need to be enslaved into a lifestyle they do not wish to be in. They have a choice, they can study and do great things for themselves. Please keep writing your experiences!
Peace and love! x
Cynthia

"I embrace emerging experience. I am a butterfly. Not a butterfly collector." - Stafford

Pooja Pant's picture

thank you

Thanks for your support and beautiful words!

Lisa T's picture

Education first!

Dear Pooja,

Thank you for sharing your story. It was a pleasure to read. I appreciate the personal story you shared and how you emphasized the role of your mother in ensuring that you received education. What an inspiration! I especially like the line, "Through careful analyzing, understanding the problems that we face, addressing those problems and then raising awareness about them, we can finally change our society." You outline positive ways to develop solutions. I look forward to reading more of your writing!

Sincerely,
Lisa

Pooja Pant's picture

thank you

Words like yours will inspire me to share more. Thank you sis!

edelgros's picture

Pooja, Thank-you for sharing

Pooja,

Thank-you for sharing your personal story with the world. I really enjoyed that you discussed the influence that both a single, positive role model like your mother can have on a girl as well as the effects that society and small communities, like the one that has given you support, can have. You're so right that changes need to happen in our minds, and that these changes need to happen at all levels- individual, community, and society. You and your mother both are incredible people, and you're doing a great job of continuing her legacy by sharing with us.

I hope this finds you healthy and that things are looking up for you.

Liz

Pooja Pant's picture

thank you

thank you for taking the time and thank you for your good wishes.

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