Let Us Pick Up Our Books & Pens

“Let us pick up our books and pencils, they are our most powerful weapon.
– Malala Yousafzi 

It is 2014, and Feminism and Women Empowerment are the buzz
words finding place in News Headlines, Social Media, Magazines and even in life
in general. It’s a good sign, of course, because when we talk about empowering
women and treating them right, we invariably talk about the burning need of
empowering young girls and giving them a promising start. Right? 

Sadly, wrong.
We talk about feminism but we forget about the little girl
who is being denied education. We stand tall for Women Empowerment, but forget
the girl who is married off at the age of 11 (or less). We fight against female
foeticide but fail to rally for the girl child who takes birth but is  deprived of basic rights. Being a woman is a
struggle, and for many, this struggle starts during childhood.
Let’s take a look at some
statistic around it.

  • 62 million girls around the world are not in
  • 53% of girls in the age group of 5 to 9 years
    are illiterate.
  • One third of the world’s girls are married
    before the age of 18.
  • In 2010, 67 million women 20 – 24 in the world
    had been married before the age of 18
  • UNFPA data reveals that India has the largest
    number of child brides in the world, with 47% girls marrying under the age of
    18, projecting that 140 million child marriages could take place between 2011 and

In India, the education of
a girl child is anyway a big issue and child marriage just adds to the effect
and makes it worse. As the old proverb goes, if you educate a boy, you educate
one person. But if you educate a girl, you educate a family – and a whole
nation. I can’t stress enough on educating the girl child, and here are just a
few reasons why girls should get an education:
  1. Future. Investing in a girl’s future is like
    investing in the national interest, the humanitarian interest. An educated girl
    child will evolve into an informed and responsible woman who will make sure her
    children get even better education, thus reforming the future.
  2. Health. Educating a girl child can help cut down
    on a lot of unfortunate medical and health tragedies in the society. Primary education alone helps
    reduce infant mortality significantly, and secondary education helps even more.
    When the women are educated, Infant Mortality rate is bound to go down, and so
    do the Maternal Mortality numbers.

  3. Decrease in Child Marriage. Child marriage is
    directly related to early dropping out of school. On an average, for every year
    a girl stays in school past fifth grade, her marriage is delayed by a year.
    Educated girls typically marry later, when they are better able to bear and
    care for their children.

  4. Population. A girl who has received education
    will be aware of her responsibilities and is more likely to have a small
    healthy family.

  5. Socio-Economic Growth. Education is the
    strongest weapon against poverty, and a girl who is educated will invariably
    raise the standard of living for the entire family.

A well educated girl is a
blessing for the society, but when this young girl is married off early, she is
denied the right of education, the chance to grow and become a strong,
empowered woman. 
That’s sad, isn’t it? 
When a girl marries at the right age,
after a proper education, she aids not only her own family, but the entire
society at large. I could go on about the benefits of education as compared to
an early marriage, but I’ll tell you a story instead. 
It’s a story of two
friends, two little girls in a small town in Rajasthan. Both walked to school
together, studied together and played hop-scotch together in the street. One of
them wanted to become a judge while the other, a princess. By the age of 11,
the one who wanted to be a judge and wear a black robe, was married off to a
guy of 16 years, and sent off to another town. The princess lost her friend,
now she only met her once in every couple of years when the young bride was
brought to visit her parents. Even then, it did not feel like she was the same
girl. The friendship couldn’t survive the odds, and you couldn’t blame them,
By the time they were 15,
the little bride was a mother of a premature kid. The other one was still walking to school, though the playing in the
streets had now long stopped. At 17, the little bride died during the birth of
a second child, premature by 4 months. At 23, the little girl who dreamed of
being a princess was finishing her law degree, and showed no sign of stopping.
She was the lucky one. She now wanted to be a judge, because she had long back
realized that she was already a princess, loved and cared for by her parents. 
This little girl got married at the age of 25, still considered a decade late according to those
times, and though she is no more in the world today, her legacy lives on in her
two daughters – one of whom has just retired as a professor and another one is
serving as, yes you guessed it, a judge.
You can ask me if this is
a story of someone I know, and I could tell you in great details about one of
these incredible daughters I look up to. But that doesn’t matter. It is not the
only story that tells of the wonders education can do, or the tragedy and
sadness that killing dreams can summon. 
This is just one of many
stories that prove that education sets you free! And this freedom means freedom
from ill fate, freedom from limited possibilities, and freedom from stereotypes
of a society. Education of the girl child is important and is a right no child
should be denied. 
I strongly believe with
Breakthrough that keeping girls in school and enabling them through knowledge
will help acquire life skills that are critical to making them productive
members of the society and delaying possibilities of early marriage. I am a part of Breakthrough’s #Selfies4School campaign that aims to send young girls to school that will enable them to break free of early marriage. The campaign mascot, Uma the super girl gives me hope that little girls will feel empowered by every tiny effort we make.
I am sure some of you will
want to ask why am I blogging about it instead of actually doing something. The answer is: 
  • If urban women and men feel a connect with a
    social issue like early marriage (that is largely perceived to be a rural
    problem), we can spread awareness and being aware is the first step to
    eradicate the issue, right?
  • What I am also, actually doing about it is that
    I am talking about it to people in real life, people who aren’t the
    blog-reading crowd – like the lady who sells fish at the Sunday market, the man
    who delivers our food from the local Indo-Chinese restaurant, and the soon-to-be-a-mother
    that mans the juice stall in front of a local engineering college.  I am telling them the value of education for
    girls and hoping to make them see the payback of ensuring their girls receive
    higher education.
  •  I am also, wholeheartedly working each day to
    bring up my daughter as a responsible and socially conscious girl , and I will
    makes sure she gets the best education.
  • Lastly, I am sharing my #Selfies4School and
    endorsing the powerful campaign initiated by Breakthrough, that aims to send
    young girls to school because education can help break the circle of early

(I tried to click a #selfie with my daughter, who is too cool for selfies apparently, and almost moved out of frame. Sigh.)

We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.

– Malala Yousafzi

So that’s my contribution.
What’s yours, hmm? 

(This post was written as part of #Selfies4School campaign by
Breakthrough TV)

Post Author: Aditi Mathur Kumar

Author. Traveller. Blogger. Talker. Eavesdropper.

4 thoughts on “Let Us Pick Up Our Books & Pens

  • DA

    (September 16, 2014 - 1:47 pm)

    nice.. !

  • Rajesh K Singh

    (September 16, 2014 - 4:45 pm)

    Very well written.

  • Anonymous

    (October 7, 2014 - 9:11 am)

    Hi Ms Aditi,just started Soldier and Spice! Nice read , took me back almost 25 years….. Still Same and yet so much seems to have changed!!! Iam sure all for the good. Its still not just a job but a way of life. Is there an email to correspond …. Good Wishes rsaksena65@yahoo.com

  • Sapana Gagda

    (October 8, 2014 - 7:27 am)

    Loved your post. The story is good, but your writing makes everything more impactful.

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