Newsletter Subscription

Regular Updates on Parenting, Happy Children & Emotional Intelligence

  • Latest Articles - Raising Children with Emotional Intelligence
  • New Parenting Blogs
  • Parenting Tips for Happy Children
  • Free Online Seminars
  • Popular Parenting Books & Reviews

Subscribe!

Regular Updates on Parenting, Happy Children & Emotional Intelligence

  • Latest Articles - Raising Children with Emotional Intelligence
  • New Parenting Blogs
  • Parenting Tips for Happy Children
  • Free Online Seminars
  • Popular Parenting Books & Reviews

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.
Unsubscribe

Blog Archives

View full Archive

Proudly Supporting

Proudly Supporting

Two Fourteen Year Old Girls - One is Married

By - 10th October 2012

247

Reproduction of image not permitted.

By Colleen Zurowski*   11 October 2012 is the first ever International Day of the Girl, declared by the United Nations as an important day to promote girls' human rights, highlight gender inequalities and address the various forms of discrimination and abuse still suffered by girls around the globe. I also think it should be a day to celebrate the girls in our lives.

Today, I am reflecting on a very special opportunity I had almost two years ago to meet a girl who I may have never known about except in statistics and numbers.

I travelled to India in 2010 with other volunteers working with global not-for-profit, Room to Read, in order to find out more about their programs on the ground. Room to Read helps students in Asia and Africa learn to read and write, and helps girls finish school. I don’t think I was prepared for the impact of meeting a young girl from a small village in the middle of the Rajasthan desert.

I have two beautiful daughters here in Sydney, and at the time that I travelled to India, one of them was a fourteen year old in Year 9. My girls lead a privileged life, even by our Western standards. They attend a private girls’ school, travel around the globe and really want for very little. My husband and I are very aware of the position we are in and have always wanted to ensure that the girls understand how very lucky they are. They are one of the reasons why I became involved with Room to Read.

When we arrived for our first site visit to see Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program in action we were greeted (after the marching band – but that is a story for another time…) by a group of young girls ranging from ages twelve to sixteen. The girls were so lovely, and poised and…. happy.  I couldn’t help reflect on what I might be greeted with in Sydney to a similar aged group of girls. Bar the very clear material differences, these girls reminded me of my daughters and their friends; laughing and giggling together. It was the similarities rather than the differences that struck me.

As a larger group, we participated in one of the life skills sessions the girls attend on a weekly basis – today it was a sort of ‘hop-scotch’ game where we had to toss a rock onto a grid and answer a question.  The questions ranged from how you contract HIV to where you might go for assistance if you have a problem to what was the official animal of the State. We then broke into smaller groups so that we could speak with the girls – through interpreters.  Some of their mothers hovered around the edges. The girls were more intent on being able to create intricate patterns on our hands with henna – which I might add, garnered me all kind of ‘cool’ points on my return.  As one of the young women grabbed my hand and focused on her artistic work, we asked the girls what they hoped to do after school.  There were many answers – teachers, police, nurses and then a couple of girls smiled broadly and said ‘not to get married’ as they looked at the girl who was busy making me beautiful. I asked what was making them smile and it turned out that the young woman working on my hand was already married.

ALREADY MARRIED.  I looked at her and asked how old she was.  She was fourteen, the same age as my daughter back in Sydney.
My brain just sort of stopped working… I’d heard the numbers, the statistics around child marriage and the gender issues in some parts of the world that stopped girls attending school; but here it was right in front of me. It turned out that this young girl had been married at eleven but had wanted to continue at school. Normally, she would have been sent off to her in-laws’ home to act as an indentured servant until she likely would give birth to her first child somewhere around thirteen or fourteen. Because Room to Read was willing to support her through her secondary schooling, her family and her in-laws had agreed that she could stay in school and continue to live at home until she finished secondary school.  I looked at her, trying to imagine my fourteen year old being married. I tried to imagine being a mother telling my eleven year old that she couldn’t go to school.  Suddenly, the gratitude of the mothers of the girls who had joined us made real sense to me. They understood the importance of their girls staying in school but simply didn’t have the ability to make it happen. Suddenly, it made very clear sense to me how education can change the world and I didn’t need a lot of statistics to tell me that; I just looked at the girl in front of me and imagined so many more in her situation. I was going back home to make sure that other people understood.  I still wear a scarf that I was given that day whenever I speak to people about Room to Read.

So this year, on the first
International Day of the Girl Child, I’ll be thinking of a Rajasthani village and a young woman who will be sixteen now and still in school because someone somewhere in the world donated $250 (that’s what it costs Room to Read to keep a girl in school for a year) and I’ll be making a donation to ensure that somewhere, another girl gets that opportunity too.

By the way, a generous donor is tripling all donations made to Room to Read on or before October 11 2012.

*Colleen Zurowski is the mother of two teenage daughters and a life long reader, and when she heard about Room to Read knew she had found the place where she would be able to contribute to world change. Colleen has been a member of the Sydney Chapter since 2009 and became one of the Chapter Leaders in January 2011. You can follow Room to Read on Twitter at @roomtoread_Oz  and Facebook

Member Login

Subscribe to our Blog