LITTLE DO MOST OF US KNOW how important education is for girls… Were you aware that one in three girls in the developing world is married before the age of 18? And yet, universal education alone could virtually end the practice of child marriage.
On the occasion of the International Day of the Girl Child on 11 October, we want to tell you the story of Aradhana, an Indian migrant girl of 17, who very nearly got married before turning 18, but was eventually saved by returning to school.
Currently, Aradhana lives with her parents near a large construction site in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. At school, she was always an excellent student – studious, hardworking, talented. Up to her 9th year, she topped her class every time. She was looking forward to going to university.
Unfortunately, her parents, two impoverished migrant workers with little knowledge of the benefits of education, did not see things that way. They interrupted Aradhana’s schooling and started looking for a husband, hoping to benefit financially from the marriage. But Aradhana was so bent on continuing to go to school that, very courageously, she decided to go talk to the facilitator at one of our Child Care and Learning Centres (CCLC), located near the Bhopal construction site.
For a few years, Aide et Action International has been running CCLCs in 65 worksites across four Indian states. In these centres, the children of Indian migrant workers can continue to be educated during the migrant working season, and are later reintegrated in their ‘source’ schools, once they get back home with their families.
When Didi, our local facilitator, went to meet Aradhana’s parents to convince them to let their girl go back to school, they were not ready to change their mind. Little did they know about the importance of education and the benefits that Aradhana would draw from it. But Didi was not discouraged. She gradually managed to make the parents understand that their daughter had amazing potential and acute intellectual abilities. Eventually, she succeeded in convincing them. And as of this year, a delighted Aradhana has returned to school to attend her 10th year.
Besides, Didi observed that Aradhana was highly talented at artistic activities. When she heard that an art summer camp for children was being organised by a local NGO, she suggested that Aradhana registered for the drawing and dance class. Can you picture the parents’ surprise when they heard that their daughter had won both the drawing and dancing competitions? Their pride was immense!
Today, Aradhana’s father has a very different perspective on education: “We were not aware of the potential and talent of our daughter,” he admitted. “But thanks to Didi, we understood that she is capable of great things. In the future, we will do everything we can so she can pursue her studies.” Aradhana is very thankful to Didi for what she did for her; and by dint of persistence, Didi changed a girl’s life.
Little do we know…
In 2017, we gave access to education to thousands of girls in 19 countries. Little do most of us know that girls’ lack of access to education in developing countries is massively increasing the risk of their being married before the age of 18 – robbing them of their future. If present trends continue, 150 million girls will be married before turning 18 over the next decade. So much more needs to be done!
Education is the most powerful way to change in this world!
Help us reach out to more girls and give them access to education, to ensure that the story of Aradhana is not an isolated success but a template for things to come. There are still millions of girls who are excluded from education and whom we can support. We still have so many lives to change and you can help us in our mission!
Happy International Day of the Girl Child! Please support us today!