‘Not marriage, education is empowerment’: TS girls recount stories of grit, resilience, & success

11:37 AM Jan 21, 2023 | Nimisha S Pradeep

Hyderabad: “When I came home for holidays, I was married off. I was just 15 then. At 16, I became pregnant. At that time, I did not even understand pregnancy,” said Lingamma, a woman from Lingala mandal in Nagarkurnool district. Six months later, she had an abortion. Very soon, she was pregnant again, and a baby boy was born but he passed away soon. Despite staying in a hostel in Kollapur in Nagarkurnool, where there was no proper food, water, or washroom, Lingamma says, “No one should face the issues that I had faced. All girl children must be educated.”

Ahead of another National Girl Child Day on 24 January, five girls from different underprivileged communities in Telangana talk about how education has played a great role in helping them break their shackles of gender inequality and achieve their dreams, and for some, how life taught them that education was important.

Why teach? Just get her married

When Sathya, another girl from Shanthi Nagar slum, of Jawaharnagar, had to take a break from her studies after class 10 due to some health issues, everybody told her parents, “Why teach her? Just get her married.” There was so much pressure from her family to get married that she stopped eating for three days as a protest. In this way, she fought to continue her studies and joined a government college for her intermediate education. However, after completing her intermediate, she could not join a college for a degree as they had enough money only for food and her mother’s treatment.

“Everyone is telling my mother to get me married off,” said Sathya. “But I want to work and get a job and make the villagers understand my capacity. I want to do nursing in the future,” she continued.

“Due to the lack of schools, many young children in my neighborhood are getting addicted to drinking and smoking. If there is a school nearby, such bad habits won’t be prevalent,” said Sathya. She also talked about the poor conditions of the few existing schools in her neighbourhood. “The school I went to from 6th standard did not have a washroom. We used to go out in the open. We were even scared to drink water and used to hold our urge to go to the washroom,” she added.

Education is empowerment

Razia’s father died when she was five months old. Her mother used to work as a sweeper. Due to financial hardships at home, Razia Begum had to drop out of school. She got married at a very young age. Her husband turned out to be an alcoholic and she became a victim of domestic violence and abuse. “I wanted to study but could not because of a lack of financial resources. Today, after coming out of an abusive child marriage, I understand the dire need for girls’ education and its importance in our empowerment. I want to convey this message to my peers,” said Razia.

Razia is restarting a new life by filing for a divorce and learning new skills like sewing to support her family.

When I was married, I was not mature

As a student, Tirupathiamma from Teegalapalli in Nagarkurnool had a tough time at school. They used to drink bore water and never had good quality water. When she went to the school hostel, there were only six washrooms for all the girls. Beyond everything, there were no proper teachers at her school. But Tirupathiamma strived hard and studied on her own. She secured a GPA of 9 in her 10th standard. She joined a government college for her intermediate education.

But she could not continue her education for long. She came home for the holidays but was married off during that time. “As a child bride, I was not mature enough,” recalled Tirupathiamma. Later, she became pregnant and was diagnosed with thyroid. But all this did not let her spirits down.

“I built myself up. I began teaching in a school,” Tirupathiamma said proudly.

‘Our struggles would end only through education’

Nineteen-year-old P. Sony has always been a merit rank holder in school. Her father was a daily wage worker and her mother was a tailor. Post Covid-19, due to the financial conditions at home, she was forced to drop out of school. She was away from school and education for around two years. But during those two years, all she dreamt of was going back to school. Thanks to Child Rights and You (CRY), with their support, Sony enrolled in one of the Telangana Residential Model Schools.

“My dream is to become an IPS officer. I want to ensure that no girl ever quits her dream because of the lack of opportunities or funds. It is extremely important that we girls study. It is only through education that our struggles will end,” said Sony who lives in the Jawaharnagar slums in Medchal Malkajgiri.