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Given the power fathers hold in families and societies, their support for girls' education can make a big difference to the lives of many.
It was the year 2004 when I was a young, vibrant teenage girl studying in the eighth grade. As an adolescent girl, I was supposed to help my mother in the kitchen; which is very commonly found in the girls of my age group. But I was always kept unaware of such circumstances happening in our society then!
I was always my daddy’s little girl, Mumma’s princess and my bhai’s tiny adorable creature whom he could play with! During vacations, I was allowed to enjoy my life as per the scheduled routine; this included studying, watching television, involving myself in creative pursuits, and playing with friends. I was never included any kind of activity related to household work.
I still remember, it was a hot summer evening when I was playing in the gardens in front of our house with my friends when suddenly a loud sound banged all our eardrums. The sound had come straight from a blue shaded house of our colony.
With startled faces, we all moved slowly towards that house. It was locked from inside and continuous arguments were pouring out through the tiny holes of its doors each time in loud volumes.
None of us dared to move towards the house and knock on the door to enquire what was going on as we were just teenagers and school-going children.
I then quickly rushed towards my home, standing outside in a breathless I called out to my parents and told them about the great disturbance that was happening in that house. My father whom I can portray as a brave, courageous, bold and strong man in our society, ran towards the house along with three other men of our colony.
They all banged on the door of that house for about five minutes and then it opened. To all our surprise, we found a of 50-year-old man at the door, and a scrawny old lady who looked about 72 to 80 years of age (his mother), and a younger woman of around 40 years of age (his wife) standing inside the house.
Their young daughter who was 24 years of age, sat silently in one corner of the house. My father along with his companions asked that man the reason for the commotion. The man arrogantly replied that it was their family matter and they did not want anyone to get involved in it.
One thing about my father I skipped earlier to mention is that he is the most adored and admired person in our colony. To calm the man’s emotional state, my father held his left hand and then kept his right hand on his other arm. And lo and behold, within a minute the man’s disturbed face was serene.That moment was a kind of warm sensation to me and I was feeling proud to be the daughter of such an amazing person.
It was quite a gathering by then! We got to know the real story behind the hullabaloo behind closed doors. The man with his family members was shouting at his 24-year-old daughter named Sakshi who was not ready to get married at that age.
Sakshi was an MBA graduate and wanted to work. She had an excellent academic background throughout her career and was very ambitious in nature.
Sakshi never had been in a relationship with a man of her choice; even now she was not ready to commit to a relationship through marriage. The only vision she had for her life was to attain her self dignity and make her parents feel proud of her.
But no one in her family could understand her point of view and were pressurising her to get married to the man of their choice. As days went on, conversations turned into shouting matches and forceful actions!
Sakshi was no longer allowed to step out of the house, talk to her friends or even attend any interviews for a job. She was confined to one room in her own home.
It was really too pathetic to hear about that amazing girl, carrying lots of dreams in her eyes, struggling hard to make them a reality. I heard my mother whispering from behind to one of the ladies of the colony that Sakshi once used to teach me when I was a 3-year-old kid and my mother had wished me to become like Sakshi one day.
People of our colony, who joined the fray started having analytical conversations about marriage and the personal dreams of a girl. Meanwhile, I glanced at Sakshi and was mesmerised to find that her face showed no sign of any regrets. It was shining very brightly full of passion to fulfil her dreams at all costs.
All of a sudden my father stood up, and asked everyone to be silent and to listen to him. I was really feeling hungry at that time, a hunger for his wisdom! I knew that my father would say something about the present matter which then could be hardly denied by any one of us; participating with full enthusiasm.
“Every girl is a blessing to society”, my father said with a calm voice to the gathering. At that moment, I felt more empowered to hear those words as his daughter!
He then continued “Not only Sakshi, but every girl also has the right to live in a society in the way they wish for! It should be clear that when a girl gets educated, the entire nation gets educated. And when a girl becomes self-dependent, she then possesses miraculous powers that shower divine peacefulness on the community, society and even the whole world. Then why should we pull ourselves behind from growing? To see our generation live a more happy and prosperous life?”
There was a strong wave of silence, people were not able to turn their faces away from my father. Suddenly, an old man stood up with a confused face and asked Sakshi’s father, “If you were not willing to allow her to work, then you could have asked her to do household work like how we practice with our daughters instead of spending so much money on her education!”
At that moment, I felt like punching the old man but somehow controlled my rage. Sakshi’s father told everyone that though his financial position was not good, yet he had spent money on her education because he wanted to see his daughter happy and her happiness lied in getting an education.
My father then congratulated him for the love, devotion, and sacrifices that he had made to see his daughter happy. The man was surprised as he could hardly understand the meaning of my father’s compliments.
“What if, Sakshi gets married to someone, whom you choose for her and quits on her dreams. She spend her time doing household works and living an aimless life without having any rights over her own family and getting suppressed by her husband in an unethical way?”, My father asked in a calm manner to Sakshi’s father.
There were no more responses.
I got goosebumps all over my whole body because being a girl, I could not imagine such terrible circumstances. My father continued, “Education is the only way to make our children, girl or boy, become better human beings; equipping them to deal wisely with all the aspects of reality.” Everyone praised my father’s words and Sakshi’s father too agreed with him. Now! Sakshi’s face was glowing even more than before, she got an opportunity to prove herself and fulfil her dreams.
It was not only a message to Sakshi’s family but also to the entire colony. The entire idea was about the empowerment of young girls through education, leading their life with self-respect and enjoying human rights without any obstructions.
Today, I work on the values that I learned from my primary institution. Education is a weapon for human beings; why then should we waste this gem in the pool of gender discrimination created by ordinary people like us?
Top image credit Triloks/Getty Images via Canva Pro; all other images submitted by the author.
Assistant Professor by profession, Social entrepreneur, Human Rights activist & Content Writer. read more...
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