When I was 13…………

A marriage proposal came for me from a very good, wealthy family from a remote part of the State of Andhra Pradesh in India.  This family approached my parents to ask whether they could have me as their daughter-in-law and………..

My father said ‘NO’!!

He said, “NO!! she is not getting married at such a young age”,

He said, “NO!! she will not get married because she has to study further.”

Am I eternally grateful for that man for making that decision!!!!!!!!!!

Now, my mother was only 12 when she got married and only had primary school education.  My father finished his higher school certificate after I was born apparently.

So, where did this wisdom come from not to push their only daughter into an early marrige even though my financial future would have been secure?

Most importantly, why am I narrating this here?

I am writing this to make a statement that whilst I have escaped being a child bride, there are 50% of girls in Andhra Pradesh district alone who are getting married as young as 12 or 13 or 15, under 18 anyway.

600 million girls in developing countries undergo either marraige before 18, no education, or bear children before they turn 18 and/or contact HIV Aids.  Read the facts here.

I am writing this as part of Tara Sophia Mohr’s 2011 Girl Effect Blog campaign.

“Girl Effect” is a campaign to raise awareness and action about how 600 million girls in developing countries live in poverty, are forced in to child marriages, early childbirths and disease. It is horrible.

I know I thanked my father from the bottom of my heart.  He was a great man, did a lot of good things and helped many people, however, all the good deeds  he had done were outnumbered by this one single act of refusing to marry me off at 13.

I was lucky to have a father like that, but 600 million girls in the world are not.

Circumstances, poverty, greed, fear – who knows what else is pushing and keeping these girls in situations where they shouldn’t be and it hurts to think I am a silent spectator of it.

Well, if raising awareness is the first step to stop atrocities like this to happen, if raising awareness and calling for help, helps girls to stay in schools and marry late, why not?

Statistics show that 90% of a girl’s income goes to support a family as opposed to 30 or 40% of a man’s income.

I can’t stop to think what my life would have been like if I was married at 13. I wouldn’t have finished school, would have been living in a village with little access to outside world and probably would have been a mother to a couple of kids before turning 18.  I would have been comfortable but torn with unidentified desires of having more and with discontentment that I couldn’t put a finger on.  Divorce would not have been an option given the family tradition and culture.

Instead, by saying No and keeping me in schoold my parents allowed my life to blossom.  I ended up getting  married when I was 18, however, finishing high school and entering college had helped me to make atleast one firm decision – I wasn’t going to have any kids until after 5yrs of married life and I had my first child at 24.

Education gives choices and 600million girls are deprived of it – ie., 10% of the population (forgive me if my maths is incorrect, but that is a huge number anyway)

What can we do? Change begins with each one of us.  The world could use a good kick in its pants.

Let us support the organisations that are helping to address the situation.  Let us connect, campaign  and raise awareness through conversations.

Awareness is the first step for change to happen.  Please share this, talk and write about it.

I am going to organise a fund raising campaign soon for this cause.  What can you do to support this cause?

Write to me with your ideas.

With Love and Respect

Padma Ayyagari




About Padma Ayyagari

I am a Human Values Activist, passionate about and trying to live steeped in Spirituality. I live with the knowledge that Love is the undercurrent of all human life. I believe in Unity of Faiths, Unity in diversity and try and live my life with unity in thought, word and deed. Helping others to lead a life of practical spirituality that will give peace of mind is my passion and life purpose.
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