A few years ago I created a flash mob in my town to the song Dancing Queen by Abba.
I twirled and sang and enjoyed the freedom to dance in public and not be ridiculed.
Until that day, I had forgotten what it was like to be 17 and NOT a dancing queen.
At 17, in Trinidad, I was in charge of my siblings four and eight years younger than I and I had full emotional responsibility for them. My father worked all day and night to keep us fed and clothed and sheltered and we were the light of his life.
My mother had immigrated to the US to work and try to bring us there as well.
At 17, I had already been caring for my siblings for 3 years and it was hard work.
A teenage brother who never listened, nor should he have, was rudderless and a baby sister who clung to me like I was her mom, which I guess I was.
I remember thinking some days that I just wanted to run away and disappear. I was tired of being the caretaker when, the truth was, I needed care myself.
I had ONE thing in my favor. Education!
I went to school every day and studied as hard as I could and was usually at the head of my class.
In those days, I had no dreams. I only knew that school was my refuge and it would have broken my heart if I had not been I allowed to go to school.
A few weeks ago in Delhi, I met a curious 17 year old and OH how she desperately wanted to be allowed to study and not just given in marriage.
Her mother, whom I also met, told me and her, in no uncertain terms that she would have to marry at age 20!
She looked at me and said WHY?
I could not answer. Instead I asked her mother if perhaps she could be the next Indira Gandhi or the next Mother Teresa.
The mother said that she never thought about it.
Looking back at my 17 year old self, taking care of children and struggling to make sense of my own needs and those of my siblings, I would have cratered if I had been told I had to marry at 20!
One of my friends from India tells me how useless it is to make programs for girl’s free education when they are not even allowed to go to school in the first place.
There are no ready answers for the multitudes of questions surrounding girls, education, marriage and children BUT there is ONE clear fact… if a girl gets as much education as she wants, she will be a better functioning member of society, a better mother and a much better wife.
Let her stay in school, give her brain a chance to develop and become mature. Just because her body is capable of producing children does NOT mean she should!
Raise your voices; keep girls in school and learning.
Love and light,