As a girl who grew up in a small town, my biggest strength was my education which I used to fulfil all mine and my parents’ dreams!
I grew up in the small town of Cuttack in Odisha. Luckily, growing up, I had a very positive influence in my life of my paternal grandmother. A well-read woman with a progressive bent of mind, she often told me stories of real women who showed exceptional courage and determination to fulfil their dreams.
Our discussions would range from feminist writers to performance artists and academicians. Thanks to her, I was deeply inspired to believe that I could achieve anything I wanted in life, only if I worked hard on educating myself, kept an open mind and persisted through time.
I am the only child to my parents. And often I have seen conservative relatives question my parents on their choice of having only one daughter and never trying for a son. My parents would smile and say that I was their son and daughter. This gesture empowered me too.
With a deep impression that education is very important if I truly wanted to accomplish something in life, I worked hard on my academics. I studied sincerely, read voraciously and created scrapbooks filled with cuttings of the places I wanted to visit, things I wanted to do and the person I wanted to be.
Through my childhood, education enabled me to get recognition. And thanks to my grandmother, I started learning to believe in myself despite the disappointments and challenges that I faced. Things changed when I lost her to a heart attack when I was 18. I had lost my anchor, my favourite feminist at a time when I was just learning to be a young, independent woman.
My parents stood like a rock beside me. We were going through a very difficult time financially when I had just started my undergrad in Computer Sciences. They put their life savings into my education putting aside their own dreams of travelling India and the world.
During those difficult times, I told myself that I would work hard and make their dream of travelling around Europe, a reality one day.
I got my first job with a leading Consulting firm in India after my graduation. And I prioritised on my savings, right from my first salary, just like any other middle-class person.
In my job as well, I worked hard on constantly learning. I worked on getting industry certifications and on my communication. Education never left my side. I even tried my best to make use of the library in my office, trying to read one book per week, reading even in crowded buses during my office commute whenever I managed to get a seat.
As women in technology, there are some glass ceilings that can be broken only when you choose to educate yourself and bank on your knowledge. There are already some sub-conscious biases that only because you are a woman, you might not be “technical” enough.
The best way to battle it is to speak up and give a well-informed perspective on anything you speak about. That’s when emotions change in a meeting room, that’s when a woman is truly valued and respected.
Through time after countless books, tutorials, conferences, certifications and learning, I moved to Amsterdam in 2017 for an assignment. Here I got the opportunity to explore Europe on my own. My two dear housemates and I travelled solo to around nine countries across Europe in some incredibly adventurous girls trips! We had achieved our dreams as middle-class girls from India who had dreamt of travelling to far-off lands with interesting cultures.
Then in 2019, I aspired to fulfil my biggest dream as a daughter. With my bundled savings and an overjoyed heart, I invited my parents. And they joined me from India for their dream trip as we toured the Netherlands, Italy and Switzerland over a period of 2 weeks.
As a girl who was empowered by education, my biggest joy was to see their dream coming true. I beamed in joy as they marvelled the beauty of Europe. It was the best time of our lives.
The best part was the example that this tiny act had set for my society and community. An only girl child from a humble background had taken her parents on their dream trip across Europe.
This was a tiny testimony that girls empowered by education could achieve anything they wanted to, only if they persisted. And this is the story of an average middle-class girl, who never gave up on herself and her quest to educate herself. She believes that if she could brave it all, you can too. Some dreams do come true, only if you choose to believe in them.
You just need to empower yourself with education. Never stop learning, no matter what. By learning, I just don’t mean academics, choose anything that you love, be it dancing, singing, and painting. Always choose excellence and learn your way to it, no matter what.
Trust me, it is the biggest weapon in your journey towards empowering yourself and other young girls around you.
Picture credits: Still from Bollywood movie Cocktail
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