Friday, January 24, 2014

Lakshmi's Story

Image from Pixabay (c) Andigraf
Child marriage is not only the erosion of innocence and a potentially successful future – but also has a rather disparaging effect on the physical strength, health and development of the girls themselves. Quite often, in child marriages, the “groom” is an older person, sometimes, by many decades. On an annual basis, as many as ten million girls are removed from school and forced into marriages they do not choose to be a part of. And these girls are young – nine, ten, eleven. Their childhoods are long dead, as these girls become mothers while they themselves desperately need theirs around to grow up. REF spoke to Lakshmi*, an eighteen-year-old mother of three, about her painful story. 

When I was born, my family did not rejoice. My mother once told me that she had never felt such regret in her life, until the day I was born. I am a girl, you see, I have no right to be alive. At least that was what they told me. I was the first to be born to my family – and it was harder on them because a girl for a firstborn is nothing to celebrate for, where I come from. My mother once told me that my father and she tried to abandon me, but they didn’t want to be liable for anything if they were found out. We lived a life in poverty – my father was a daily labourer with nothing to his name. He would lie drunk every other day, dead to the world, while my mother would do odd jobs to make the family survive. When my brother was born, my father gave up drinking. He had a future to look forward to, he said. 

I was twelve when they married me off. Six years ago. Today, you tell me that a law was passed eight years ago. But what was the use? I was still married off before I could grow up – I don’t know what it is to be a girl. All my life, I was a woman. 

I don’t know how old the man I was married to was at the time of my marriage. He is as old as my father, that is about all I know, but here he was, marrying a girl – sorry, a woman – his daughter’s age. I had to live with my husband’s family. I can’t say life was any different, it was the same thing, to live in poverty. The only difference was that the people around me were different. I had my first child within a year of marriage. He is almost six now. Within the next four years, my other two children were born. I can’t tell you enough how tired I am. All I long for is a carefree life a life where I can be the child I never was, and then grow into being the woman I am now. 

My parents didn’t consider educating me at all. It was a non-issue, there was no basis for me to even ask them. When you are taught that you are worthless from when you are very young, you don’t and you can’t seem to believe much else. There were schools in my village, but I think – this is all I remember – it was only the boys that attended it. But even they didn’t have much education, the government school had no teacher many times, and the private schools were either expensive, or just closed down when the city people would leave the village. 

Now I live in the city, and I see girls like you coming and going about, all successful. Please don’t think I am jealous, not at all, I am proud of my sisters. But there is a very sad part of me that yearns and wishes that I could have the life that you all have, too. I see my children – you see them playing about, there – and I wonder if they will also be caught in the same net as me. My daughter goes to school, that way my husband is a lot better. But I wonder if there is a future for her or my sons at all. Poverty is a difficult thing to deal with. 

You want to write my story. I am happy to tell you, with the wish that things will change, that my children will have a good future. I am eighteen, but I really feel like I am eighty. My body has aged, my mind is old because it is illiterate. Every day I dream of a happy future for my children – they are my world and the only reasons that I continue to live. My husband is a good man, no doubt, but if I had had a chance to decide the way my life went, I wouldn’t have lived it this way.

* Name changed