I come from a village called Sathin, small city in western Rajasthan, India. I have heard my village has around 700 people,but I cannot say for certain because in my culture, girls are not allowed to go outside of their homes. My father is illiterate. My mother left school when she was 12 and was married at 14. Now my father supports four children and my grandparents on a small salary. He works as a security guard.
School can change a girl’s life. I know because I have changed my own life through education. When I was 10, I was one of seven girls with 25 boys in my class. I have always loved studying and my best subject is economics–actually, my worst marks are in English. But I wanted to write in English, because it is a challenge. I love a challenge.
When I was 17, I wanted to continue studying. But I knew college was too expensive for my family. My father said I could not go to college. He said I should stay in and study and not go out of the house. But I searched for an opportunity to continue studying and I found the Veerni Hostel, a boarding school for girls studying in Jodhpur. I am able to live there for free and go to college. I am studying sociology, political science, and economics. I am taking my final exams this month and I graduate in April. But this is not easy.
Early marriage is a tradition in my community. Many girls are married before they reach the legal age of 18, and in villages, it is very common to see girls marry before age 15.
At the Veerni Hostel, 15 of the 86 girls are already married. If they had stayed in their villages, their parents would have sent them to their husbands. But if they go to school outside of the village, the parents will let them study. They say that men can wait.
This is how education changes a girl’s life. I know because I see that my parents have changed. Now they listen to me because I have an education.
After graduation, my first dream is to join the army. My next dream is to work in business. I want to be rich, because when you are poor, no one listens to your views or ideas. I want to earn enough money to provide for my family and solve their problems. Then I want start a school that is different from other Indian schools. I don’t want the girls in my school to just sit in their chairs; I want them to express their views and ideas.
In February, I came to the United States for the first time. I spoke at the International Women’s Health Coalition gala and went to Washington DC to talk about my experiences. I told Congressional staff why supporting girls’ education is important and how giving girls the ability to choose their own futures will help girls like me avoid early marriage and show our families that we are important too. I told them that I hope that they pass legislation to prevent child marriages because it is important that the United States helps girls like me to make a better life.