My dad was first asked by another family if he wanted to marry me off when I was 13. It was followed by lots of other proposals. But my dad kept saying no. He explained that there will be no wedding until I’ve been in education for 15 years, and that means that he thinks I need to have finished university studies first.
“The reason he thinks this is because I’ve always told him everything I learned about girls’ rights in Ashok’s Girls Club. Dad let me explain to him, and he has understood. I love him for that! The knowledge and confidence I’ve gained through Ashok’s organization IHMP have given me the chance to keep studying and try and achieve my dreams. My greatest dream is to one day be a doctor.”
Wages pay for school books and bus tickets: “I charge between 100 and 200 rupees per garment, depending on the type of work,” says Saima.
“Being able to use a tablet boosts confidence and also we get treated with greater respect. People in the village listen to us now. It wasn’t like that before. Then it was just boys and men who were informed and learned things. Knowledge was withheld from girls. And then it was easy for men to take advantage of girls and trick them. Girls became the property of men, and they could do what they liked with them. Now that we have knowledge, we are both able, and have the confidence, to express our own opinions and then it’s not so easy to be taken advantage of. We get more respect. We become more independent.”
Saima teaches the girls how to use a tablet and access the internet.
“I now make clothes to order. Customers come to me with the fabric and I make the clothes. I charge between 100 and 200 rupees, depending on the type of work. The money means I can pay for my school books and bus tickets to get to school. I can also contribute a little to my family, and that feels really good.”