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“I Want A Job In Another City Because I Don’t Want To Get Married So Soon”

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This post is a part of Kaksha Crisis, a campaign supported by Malala Fund to demand for dialogue around the provisions in the New Education Policy 2020. Click here to find out more.

Nila, a 21-year-old young woman, lives in Firozabad with her parents and four siblings, two younger brothers and two sisters. Her father was earlier a daily wage earner who used to make bangles for a living. He lost his work during COVID, but thankfully, the family put up a small shop to sell daily essentials.

Nila pursued a diploma in Mechanical Engineering in one of the Government polytechnic colleges close to her home. She loved her college life, made a lot of friends and liked the style of teaching of her professors. She shared how she understood the importance of contributing to the family economically. Being the eldest of all children in her family, she also had to take responsibility of her siblings.

But Nila’s mother envisioned a different life for her daughter and wanted her to get married as soon as possible.

bride
But Nila’s mother envisioned a different life for her daughter and wanted her to get married as soon as possible. Representative Image.

“I don’t want to get married so soon. My mother keeps nagging me to get married, she is a bit stubborn about it, but I really don’t want to and I hope my parents understand this. This is why I really want to get a job in some other city, maybe, so that I can move out of my house, earn some money. Then I can also study and appear for government exams on the side to get a good government job.

“You know how it feels like everything comes to an end after getting married, right? My mother says you can still study after getting married, but I know in our society nobody around me will allow it once I get married. Then, I will just have to listen to my in-laws, my husband and others and do what they say.” 

Around 45.1% of women aged 20–49 years were married at 18 in Uttar Pradesh. Uttar Pradesh also has the highest number of child marriages (36 million) in the country. Such early marriages have adverse effects on the health and education outcomes of young girls with reproductive and other health problems, lack of agency and decision-making and inability to participate in the workforce and be independent.

During the lockdown last year with schools closed, there was a sudden increase in child marriages as families married their daughters off due to loss of livelihoods and poor economic conditions. Marrying one of their daughters off was a way for them to save money by not having to provide for an additional member of the family.

This mindset where girls are considered a “burden” is a deeply entrenched problem in our society even today, despite several organisations working persistently to change this attitude towards girls.

Young girls like Nila wanting to study further or pursue a career are often forced to give up on their dreams and get married. Nila has been able to stand her ground till now and has not given up.

We often do not expect that young women living in remote rural regions, belonging to economically weaker families, will have and be able to express opinions of their own due to the strong patriarchal norms and the stereotypes we harbour. However, through conversations with young girls like Nila in this region, I realised that they also have aspirations and dreams that are not tied to getting married.

They are not ignorant of the shackles of patriarchy and try to call them out in their own way in their families. But, unfortunately, the one thing they lack is the strong agency to bring about a change in the family’s mindset. As a result, they ultimately give in to the whims and decisions of their families.

Imagine the number of dreams and ambitions that are left unheard of and unspoken.

The author is a Kaksha Correspondent as a part of writers’ training program under Kaksha Crisis.

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