By Averil Spencer
This story was told to me by one of the teachers at Ushodaya High School, who was a VOICE counselor this past summer. While devastating, it is stories like this that drive me and the rest of the VOICE team to continue the work we are doing.
Pooja was a really smart girl who used to attend Ushodaya High School. Her parents didn’t want her to continue her studies after 8th Class, but Pooja’s teachers and the school correspondent at Ushodaya knew that she was smart and wanted her to furher her education. They talked to Pooja’s parent and convinced them to let her continue going to school and graduate from 10th Class. She did very well on her standardized Class 10 exams, scoring a 525/620 (very high for the Class 10 Exams). After doing so well, her parents were once again convinced to let her go to intermediate college. Again, Pooja performed really well on her exams and wanted to go to keep studying and attend university. Her parents, however, said no because they were preparing for her marriage. This time no one could convince her parents that Pooja deserved to get a college education. One day when her family was out, Pooja doused herself in kerosene and committed suicide.
While gruesome, Pooja’s story highlights the determination of the girls in the communities VOICE works with, and the barriers they still face.