Today I will introduce you to quite a big family! It is the family of two newly admitted children, Gyanu and Poonam. They are the youngest two girls of seven children! Five of these are girls, two are boys.
Gyanu’s home is not far from the school and our Ashram. By foot, we reach their home, entering from the main road into a big courtyard on which we see a few cows and several children playing. We quickly find Gyanu – or rather, she spots us, and calls her mother over. When we ask her to gather her children around her and sit down, we get a surprise: one after the other do all the children get up and sit next to the woman: all seven are actually hers!
We start talking and get to know their ages: in a two-year-rhythm, the mother had first three girls, then two boys and then again two girls, the eldest one 17 years old and the youngest one, Poonam, only five years old.
They normally don’t all live in this home however – because the eldest two daughters are already married! The 17-year-old and the 15-year-old were married half a year ago. Of course it was an arranged marriage. When we ask the mother why she married them so very early, she replies: ‘Oh, we had to, we are living in a bad time!’ What she means to say with this, without expressing it clearly, is that modern ways of living have brought a lot of change and she would not like to have her daughters get close to any boy before marriage! It would be a big stain on a girl’s reputation if it got known that she had a boyfriend and thus sex without even being married. So better marry them before they even think of something along these lines.
The elder daughter seems to be content with her fate but in the second-eldest we see some hesitation to wholeheartedly agree that it was good to marry early: she has just finished her 7th class in school and would have loved to continue studying. Unfortunately however, her in-laws, with whom she is living now, are not in favour of her continuing going to school. Although we encouraged her to find a way, anyhow, to go to school nevertheless, her education will most probably stop here – why would a 15-year-old want to start a fight with her newlywed groom and his parents?
We are happy to find out that at least the other three children go to school and study. They go to a cheap private school close-by but the cost of fees, books and other stationery are still high enough to make it difficult for the parents to afford the same school for their two youngest daughters as well.
Gyanu’s father is a driver and his wife is unsure as to how much he earns. They have five rooms on their property which they rent out. They are made just of bricks, no plaster or paint on the walls and each of them is actually only four walls and a door. They rent them out for five US-Dollar per month – a small support to the family income!
It has been ten days now that the school has been open and Gyanu and Poonam are daily coming, have started learning and have already made some new friends! They are jolly and have lots of fun at school – and we hope that with the education they get here and some further support from our side, they will not get married as early as their sisters!