On World Children’s Day: A history of the future

On World Children’s Day, Khyati Chauhan came to New York City to celebrate the rights of girls around the world and to share her work — fighting to be sure they have a fair chance to an education.

 

My cousin was in 11th grade when she moved from a typical Indian village to my place in New Delhi. We were polar opposites yet the closest. She was a shy introvert; I was talkative and vivacious. She blindly followed her father’s demands and I not so subtly rebelled against my father’s rules. Her quietness led her down a darker path of depression, maybe because she was not able to deal with the high city life. Added to that were the constant threats of her marriage, a choice that would be made for her and that she would have to obey.

Her struggles were a motion picture that I constantly watched. A movie that made me contemplate the situation of hundreds of girls in my village: their hopes, their education, and if they were mentally being forced to marry rather than study. Were they pushed away from the chance to learn? This thought provoked me to give a voice to the opinions and feelings of these girls and help them to see a future that involves an education rather than a marriage. Having spent my childhood in the same village with them, I am determined to see the first effects of my work there. Every time I visit, I see that even with the changing times, my village and other parts of my country are still frozen in a view of girls as a debt to be paid off. A vision that refuses to see girls’ potential.

Girls sitting on the floor studying.
UNICEF/IndiaA group of girls hard at work in their classroom near Udaipur, Rajasthan, India.

My grandmother was married at 16 and then had my mother. My mother was forced to choose a cheaper education because her brother’s education was more important than hers. All these experiences of the people around me give me the fuel to carry on and work harder. This history pushes me to step out of stigma and try to influence other girls to do the same. I wish to see every father urge his daughter to go to school and get her independence before she chooses a life partner.

Education, I feel, is the most important element in our society — the same education for girls and boys. Learning is a beacon that imparts not only knowledge but also an important sense of individuality. These reasons guide my conviction to see every girl I meet, be it in my village or somewhere else, carry this beacon and gain the strength that comes from education.

Khyati Chauhan is a 17-year-old student of Ahlcon International School. Even though she lives in the city, her heart resides in her village, Baghpat, where she spent her childhood and visits regularly.

 

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with “required.”

Comments:

  1. Reading Khyati’s story on her perspective of growing up in a country that did not value women’s education was important for several reasons. Although the article was brief, much was said within it; first, Khyati’s story is not only one of a women’s rights issue, but also one of a children’s rights issue. Khyati tells us that her grandmother was married and already having children by age 16. In some countries around the world, the typical age of marriage for girls is much younger than 16. One thing I really liked about the article is the way Khyati described what she witnessed; she used words such as “frozen” and a “motion picture” to describe her and her cousin’s experiences. To me, reading these descriptive words helped me to gain a better sense of feeling as to what was happening in Khyati’s mind. She recognizes the importance of education, and Principle 7 of UNICEF’s Declaration of the Rights of the Child recognizes that every child is entitled to receive an education. It even mentions equal opportunity in terms of both young boys and girls receiving education, which Khyati states is one of her goals for promoting education. Since Khyati was able to come to the United States to share her work, we have ample opportunity to hear her story and take action to help villages like hers achieve opportunities for a quality education to boys and girls alike.

  2. This article really gets to the point at how girls are still not treated equally. It happens all around us. Women are not given the chance to seek their full potential. Overtime women have advocated and proven their worth into society. As international social workers it is our job to support the women to getting education and having value. Women are the future in order to help countries advance in a variety of ways. We need to stop putting men first and look at the equality deserved.