"For most, they’re in constant negotiation for even the most basic of freedoms."
By Kim Burnett, Shadhika President and CEO
January 24, 2019
Parvati’s* mother comes to the door of the tiny apartment to welcome us. Though the space isn’t much bigger than my bathroom at home, Parvati, a Shadhika Scholarship student, lives here with her mother and her three brothers. In this small space, everything has its place, everything has its purpose. We carefully find ours, as we take a seat on the floor.
From the first, we can tell this is a loving home and that her mother is proud of her daughter’s accomplishments. Parvati has been with Vacha, Shadhika’s partner in Mumbai, for over four years now, and is in her final year of college, majoring in Accounting. Widowed early on, her mother has made it a priority to invest in the education of her four children. She knows this is her legacy.
Parvati is one of the lucky ones. Not all of Shadhika Scholarship students have this level of parental support. For most, they’re in constant negotiation for even the most basic of freedoms.
There is Durga*, who, until age sixteen, was never allowed to leave her home, except to go to school.
There is Pooja*, who took a year to convince her parents to let her wear jeans.
There is Mamta*, who slyly got her parents to sign permissions forms for her to attend a 3-day conference, only explaining afterward that she had to go to Delhi, 2,500 miles away.
Every Shadhika Scholarship student shares that they would be forced into marriage by this point, save for Shadhika’s requirement that their parents sign a pledge against this practice.
Though these negotiations seem to be a never-ending burden for the girls, as they relate their stories, they come alive, laughing at their resourcefulness and beaming over their hard-won freedoms. It is through Vacha’s coaching and training that they have gained the confidence and skills to fight for these opportunities.
And though they may seem like small victories, each one builds on the next, empowering each girl to be a little more confident, a little more independent, a little more brave, inspiring her sisters.
As we return back to Vacha from our visit to Parvati’s house, someone tells the story of a girl who, after being forced to live in a small room for many years, found her depth of vision to only reach as far as the size of that small room.
But not these girls. Their vision is clear and vast. And every day they chip away at the walls that block their view.
*name changed for safetyRead more