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Girls’ education: A Mother’s Legacy

August 22, 2017 Written by a HealthBridge guest blogger Post a comment!

Mothers at a village health meeting in Banke district, southwest Nepal.

By Anita Jaiswal, student at Asian University for Women and intern at Institute of Wellbeing (Bangladesh)

Funny thing about prejudices: they can be passed on across generations, or they can vanish when the person suffering from them decides that she wants something much better for her own children. Fortunately for me, my mother fell into the second category.

My mom grew up in a typical rural Nepali family. She did not have a good childhood as it was spent doing household work. She was the only girl among four siblings. While she was loved by all, her desires and wants were always ignored. From a young age she wanted to go to school but was prohibited because she was a girl.

When she was five years old, she defied her parents and went to school with her brothers, without letting her parents know. The second time she went her parents found out about it and dragged her home. She begged her mom to let her study but her mom denied her, saying, “If you go to school with your brothers, who will help me with the household work?

Married at 15

“You should understand that you are a girl and you will have to go to your in-laws’ house where your education will be of no use but your skills in household work will be appreciated,” she added. Despite all their warnings and refusals, my mother repeatedly requested a chance to study but her words were ignored. She was married at the age of 15.

My mother was a determined and talented woman. She started a business with the help of my dad: she had her own shop. For a few weeks she was able to attend an informal school with her mother-in-law but they couldn’t continue because they were too busy raising all of us children. My mom did not consider us as an obstacle. She wanted to fulfill her dreams through us. While she never had the opportunity to study, she was determined to provide us with a higher level of education so that we could be successful and independent.

Like her parents, my mom had four children. The difference was that she had three daughters and one son. Society always gives priority to sons but for her, her daughters always came first.

One day, my elder sister got a chance to study in an international university. Unfortunately she was unable to take advantage of it as she already had gotten an ideal job in Nepal. My next older sister got her dream job so did not go abroad to study either. My mom supported their decisions and confidently told me that I would go to the international university after secondary school. She was right! I am proud to be studying at university and thrilled to be at the place where my mom wanted to see me, but at the same time I am the unluckiest child, as my mom is no longer here to see my achievements.

I feel proud of my mom who never let us down. Today, she might not be with us but I carry her with me every day: her humour, her bravery, her confidence, her tenacity and her love. It feels good to see my mom’s dream coming true but it’s also hard to accept the truth that she didn’t get the chance to share the joy that she had so eagerly anticipated.

Read about our gender approach to improving the health of mothers and children

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