My name is Kiera Murphy and I’m a second year undergrad double majoring in Political Science and Global Studies and I’m currently studying abroad at the University of Hyderabad and a new intern Voice 4 Girls. Today was my first day and Grant, the other intern, and I got off to an early start and hoped on a rickshaw to meet up with Averil to visit two affordable private schools in prominently Muslim communities in the outskirts of Hyderabad.
Once departing from the rickshaw we walked up to the top a hill where the school was located. When we arrived at the school a large gate lead us into a dirt courtyard outlined with eight or so open aired classrooms. Each classroom was packed with about thirty or more kids and a teacher and one class. The students all had the biggest glow on their face and waved frantically. We got the chance to meet with the owner of the two schools we visited today. He briefed us on the history of the schools and we had a very interesting conversation about the problems women face in Muslim communities.
He explained to us that he witnesses, first hand, girls dropping out of school to get married off. These girls can be as young as twelve years old! If one of the girls gets married off at twelve they not only loose their chance at a valuable education and they are more likely to live a life bound to their homes raising children and may even face physical, emotional and economical abuse. The owner of the school explained that even if he begs of the parents to wait to marry off their daughters they “won’t listen.” He summed it all up by saying that these Muslim families view marriage as success for their daughters not an education.
We were also able to meet with a few of the young female teachers. They explained to us that as much as they believe that their female students face obstacles they will ultimately do what they are brought up to think is right, which in most cases is marriage. Besides the marriage obstacle, economic instability is a problem for all families trying to send their kids to school. Most students drop out to either get married so their parents don’t have to economically support them or to go help their fathers with their job or to work a job themselves. Most of these families earn 3000 rupees a month ($60). Can you believe supporting any family on a salary of 60 bucks?
The sacrifices that these human beings have to make makes me cringe. Just imagine. I asked the teachers if they view themselves as role models and they didn’t quite understand. These women don’t even see themselves as empowered, successful leaders for these young female students! I tried to explain that they hold so much power because these girls can look up to them. They smiled and nodded. My mind was racing with solutions and what I could potentially do to help. There’s just so much that needs to be done!
We eventually caught a rickshaw to the next school where we got to meet some of the girls who had gone to the Voice camp this last summer. I got to speak with about six of the girls who were in 8th grade. They told me their dreams of being fashion designers, doctors, politicians, engineers, businesswomen and artists.
They kept on saying how confident they were because of Voice. They weren’t afraid to speak up. These girls are my heros. After taking some time to reflect on my first day I can honestly saying that after being here in India, witnessing the hardship that these girls face, my passion for helping them is going to last for the rest of my life.
As a camp counselor and Girl Scout, I can’t stress the importance of empowering young girls around the world who are put into situations where they are unaware of their options to get an education and become strong independent women. Camp a way to give these girls a voice!