How one girl overcame gender prejudice to reach her dreams

POSTED April 14, 2021

How one girl overcame gender prejudice to reach her dreams

Pavithra shares her journey to stay in school despite pressures from home to drop out

By Stephen Paulcruz, program leader of IRCDS (our partner) & Lavanya Kesavaraj, CB program manager, India

Girl talks to group of captivated children

Unfair treatment always feels bad. For Pavithra, a 15-year-old girl living in India’s patriarchal society, opposition to her staying in school was far worse, especially because it happened at home.

“It is not easy to grow up in a poor household and face discrimination in my own family,” Pavithra explains.

Her father is a daily wage labourer and her mother has a physical disability, leaving the family in a precarious financial state. Pavithra was forced to drop out of school and work in the home. She was forbidden from playing with friends and told to do household chores and care for her mother. “I was made to feel that because I am girl, I have to act like an adult,” she says.

A volunteer at a Children Believe-supported creative learning centre in Pavithra’s village learned the young student had dropped out of school in Grade 9. So, through a Children Believe partner, program leaders talked to Pavithra’s family about the rights of children and the importance of education for girls. With their support, Pavithra returned to school where she joined a children’s club through Children Believe, learning about her rights and how community leaders and local authorities should keep her safe.

This support is just what Pavithra needed, as her troubles were not over yet. Speaking to a male friend over the phone, her father accused her of a love affair and used the situation to arrange for Pavithra to marry a 35-year-old. “At that moment I asked myself, ‘Why did I have to be born a girl?,’” she says.

Once again, the creative learning centre volunteer, this time with children’s club members, intervened. They warned Pavithra’s parents child marriage was against the law, and they would face prosecution if the marriage was conducted. Pavithra has now completed Grade 11 and continues her studies.

“I am so grateful I was able to overcome these barriers and pursue my education,” she says. “I am determined to complete school and pursue higher education.”

Although schools in India closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pavithra made use of the time to learn tailoring. Thanks to Children Believe supporters, she’s one of many girls in India who had the help to stay in school and escape forced marriage.

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Children Believe works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. For 60 years, we’ve brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists. Together, we’re driven by a common belief: creating access to education — inside and outside of classrooms — is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.

About ChildFund Alliance:

A member of ChildFund Alliance, Children Believe is part of a global network of child-focused development organizations working to create opportunities for children and youth, their families and communities. ChildFund helps nearly 23-million children and their families in 70 countries overcome poverty and underlying conditions that prevent children from achieving their full potential. We work to end violence against children; provide expertise in emergencies and disasters to ease the harmful impact on children and their communities; and engage children and youth to create lasting change and elevate their voices in decisions that affect their lives.