Girls and Their Right to a Career

Cover of "Daughter"

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Post selected as a Spicy Saturday Pick in BlogAdda for 10-Dec-2011

Featured at Symptoms of Disempowerment on 22-Dec-2011.

Featured at Global Voices Online on 17-Dec-2011

Here is my 100th post on Merry Musings – and I wanted to take this time to write of a girl I know, who has been banned from having a career or joining a college course of her wish.

Ananya is a 17-year-old – a bright and wonderful girl. She is now in the 12th form at a Girls’ School. She lives with her Dad, Mom and a little brother.

Just like any girl about to embark into College has some ideas about the course she wants to pursue, Ananya too has some desires. She is extremely talented with her hands – stitching, fabric painting, glass painting, doll making – these are all crafts she excels at – as well as having great grades at school. Her ambition is to become an Interior Designer or Fashion Designer and would like to get into such a College course which will prep her for such a career.

However, her dad has different ideas. In spite of living in the 21st century, his mindset is still stuck in the 1900s. He thinks that girls are only good for being married off. His intentions about his daughter’s studies – to get her into the college next-door and enrol her in a useless course which will definitely not aid her in any way to get a job or become financially independent. And as soon as the course is complete, to get her married off! Convenient, isn’t it?

She is desperate – her Mom is sympathetic, but has no voice where her husband says that his Will is the Law in that house. Her dad is acting like a tyrant – even tries to get rid of her skin products like cleanser and moisturiser – just to make sure that his daughter does not fall into any traps and shame the family name by eloping or getting married outside the community. In fact that seems to be his only concern over his daughter.

Several have tried to change his mind, including his eldest sister who said, “A girl should be equipped to take a job if necessary. If not, she will be a slave in her husband’s home.” But all to no avail. So far, no one has managed to change his mind. Ananya dreads the day she completes her final exams in 12th grade. Then the countdown begins to the day of her marriage – along with the death of a talented girls desires and ambitions.

What do you think of a father who is only concerned about getting his daughter married off? Has he thought of how she will react if her husband turns out be as oppressive as her dad is?Or what if she is married and her husband dies – what will her Dad do then? Or if she is married to a guy who seemed to be perfect but turned out to be a nightmare? I know girls who have been in both situations and the only thing that saved them was that they had a job.

She is a rather modern girl, with a mind of her own. However, her wings are being clipped right now, to make sure that she has no chances of maligning the family name. I imagine it is a case of ‘Prevention is better than Cure.” I wonder why he bothered to teach her or even goad her on to get good grades in school. If he only wanted her to be stuck in a strange family’s kitchen, then he should just have let her stay at her mother’s side and learned the “domestic arts”.

Today she is crying and her pleas for help are falling on sympathetic ears who are helpless to change her dad’s mind. I can imagine what will slowly happen to this girl – either she will just succumb to her Dad’s pressure and agree to get married at the earliest possible opportunity, burying all her fond hopes of a career. Or when she starts college (at least that is definite – dad certainly wants his daughter to have a degree in hand, else her value in the marriage market will fall), she will have friends who will be sympathetic to her problems and offer advice, which in all probability may be the wrong ones, and may take some wrong turns in life. Or she may break free from the golden cage and follow her heart’s desire.

Fathers such as these are extremely myopic. They are only concerned about their duty to their daughters, namely to get them married off, and then it is all out of focus for them. They don’t even take view of the fact that their darling daughter will be the one to suffer because of their archaic thinking.

Dear readers, what do you think Ananya can do other than to submit to the will of the father?

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13 thoughts on “Girls and Their Right to a Career

  1. There are many Ananyas around us. As I see it, it is only Ananya who can change her father’s
    perception and view. Maybe she can convince her father that by doing what she wants to do will actually enhance her “marriage value”.

    Congratulations on your 100th post, Merry. 🙂

    • I doubt that she could achieve it as her Dad believes that “If anyone is right in this family, it is ONLY ME.” So, you can imagine how Ananya will fare.
      And thank you for dropping by Sudha 🙂

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  6. Hi – I’d love it if you contributed this to my on-line project “Symptoms of Dis-Empowerment” – please pop over and have a look – the “How to Contribute” is a tab at the top. httm://www.symptomsofdisempowerment.com I’m asking women to contribute how, where and what way we see and experience symptoms of dis-empowerment. Those concepts, constructs, rules, laws and religious expressions that attempt to define a woman. As women, if we begin to recognize these beliefs and expressions as man-made, we will begin to claim the power that is truly ours. Embracing all that we have takes inner-strength and a knowingness that we are right in claiming our individuality and uniqueness and it takes letting go of the hooks that tell us it’s not right to offend or hurt someone – even when their actions are hurting us.

    I have worked with women in similar circumstances and it is a journey to self-empowerment – one that is not earned easily.

    Such a powerful telling! Thank you!

    Christine Agro
    The Metaphysical Feminist

  7. This is tough. What course is he planning to get her into? Can she tweak her way into some professional competence through it and then quickly take up a job in another city after that? I hope Ananya finds out a way. You, for sure, are doing a good job in feeling for her, and trying to proactively seek a solution. One needs more friends like you!

    • Thank you Priya for dropping by and commenting. Ananya’s course hasn’t been decided yet as she is giving her class 12 exams in March. And that is when she needs the most support from friends and family – to see her through a trying time which will set the course of her future.

  8. Hi Fire Crystals,

    I don’t know how but right now, when I clicked on “comments” I got this box to post my comments 😀 About the young girl Ananya. I can totally understand her helplessness because I felt the same over 30 years ago, when my father’s sole ambition was to wait for me to complete my studies in order to get me married. Of course, in that era, girls married as a rule and usually submitted to their father’s will, but the present age girls are made of sterner stuff and will not give in at all. She should never settle for second best and kill her dreams of becoming an interior designer, no matter what. She will be 18 soon and a major. She must be brave and tell her father that he cannot make her marry anyone if she is not allowed to study what she likes. She could leave home and stay with friends or relatives until he comes around. But to do all this, she must have friends or relatives, who will take her in and support her. Her mom also must be brave enough to stand up against her husband. After all, it is a question of her life’s desire and one must not crush that. The father may get cured if he gets a dose of his own medicine.

    http://yourkidandyou.blogspot.com/

    anita

  9. I wonder if you could do a follow up on Ananya (if it is a real person). I knew someone in school who had parents like Ananya. She, incidentally, turned to her professors for help. She got into one of the NIFTs (ranked quite high on the entrance exam, which she took by sneaking off while her friends held fort and told her parents she was with them, and she paid the exam fee by stealing money while her parents were asleep) and then got into contact with college officials, and they put her in touch with a professor who decided to pay for her through college!)

    I think, even if Ananya has to get admitted into the college next-door, she should ask her teachers here (or even at school) for help.

    • Mollie, I AM glad you brought that up. I had been thinking of doing a follow-up on Ananya (and btw, it is a real person). But I am waiting to see what path she, or rather her father, will choose for her. I should probably have an answer in a month’s time, and then I will post it here.

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