By Jillian Zieske, ACT:S Fellow
Have you ever wondered what your life would be like had you been born someplace else? It’s difficult to wrap your mind around this scenario, especially if that someplace else is a developing country, and you are a girl.
I was born to loving parents who completed high school, and my dad graduated college. We were not wealthy, but my childhood was enjoyable and comfortable. When I was 12, we celebrated my graduation into middle school with cake and a new backpack. At 14, I started high school and held hands with a boy I thought was cute. I later decided he played too many video games and told him I didn’t want to “hang out” anymore. When I was 15, I got my driving permit and started dreaming of attending college. I knew this would happen for me if I studied enough. When I was 18, I graduated high school, was accepted to the University of Washington, and moved to Seattle. Now, at 22, I have a college degree, live in safe neighborhood, and can financially support myself. Statistics show that when I decide to start family, I am likely to reinvest 90% of my income into my family. This means that my daughters will most likely have opportunities similar to the ones that I had. I am blessed.
Let’s replay this as if I was born in rural India. According to statistics, I was born into an unstable household. During my childhood I spent more time out of school than in school. At 12, I was considered a woman in the eyes of my community and my education stopped at this point. By 14, I was married to a man I barely knew. My parents agreed to the marriage on my behalf. At 15, instead of dreaming of college, I was pregnant. This was dangerous for my small adolescent body, and I was twice as likely to die in childbirth as women over 19 years. At 18, my children and I were dependent on my husband for my livelihood. He reinvests only 30-40% of his income into our family. At 22, I am illiterate, isolated from opportunity, and most likely going to provide the same future for my daughters because I do not think there is any other option.
But there is.
The hope for this cycle comes when a rural girl in India learns the transformative power of education and has the opportunity to finish school instead of becoming a child bride. What’s more hopeful is that girls around the world are starting to learn of opportunities, little by little- and they are fighting for these opportunities.
It’s not fair that I write about my blessed life of opportunity while another woman my age endured a tragic childhood in rural India. It’s unjust.
The way I see it, Girls + Education = Opportunity; opportunity to finish school, to marry by choice, to have a more reliable income, and to eventually give her children opportunity as well.
This week ACT:S is joining with 10×10 to create awareness around the incredible change can be made when girls have access to education. Let’s start a global conversation highlighting all the awesome things that can happen when girls are educated. What does Girls +Education equal to you? Snap a photo and show us what you think!