“I was 15 years old when my parents married me off into an uneducated family, to my cousin. They said it was a family custom – ‘rivaaj’.
I was a competent and hard-working ‘Matric’ student. As a child bride I knew my wedding was happening, but I did not know what a wedding was. I used to be afraid of going into my husband’s room.
Two years later my first child was born. With no money to buy her medicines when she was unwell, hurt me. That is when I said enough is enough – this was not the life for me. I made my life’s first bold decision – to go back to school. Over the next 6 months I saved Rs 1,200 from tutoring young children and submitted my school attendance forms and fees, with the help of my 18 year old brother.
I hid my studies from my husband and father-in-law, they were totally against it. My mother-in-law was my only ally in my husband’s house. She supported me throughout. She looked after the children and housework – she is a kind, humble and good natured person.
In 1999 I resumed my studies. I could not afford school classes. I had no lecturers. It was all self-taught; reading in private – in the kitchen and washroom – and hiding from everyone. When the time came for me to sit my FA exams, I told my husband because I had no money to go to the examination hall. My husband refused to take me, I had to take the bus or walk the long distances.
When I received my FA result even though my grade (division) was low, I was elated, after all look at the circumstances I studied in.
After this I started working from home (sewing and teaching) to save money for my children and to study further.
Two years later I passed my BA exams. Before the announcement of my results, my brother secured me in a teaching job at a local college (grade 6; Rs 2,500 monthly salary). I travelled by foot one and a half hours each way, with broken shoes and sometimes wrapping plastic bags around my feet/shoes to stop them from bleeding. My husband used to mentally torture me even when I wanted to work to bring in extra income to support his children.
Whilst working at the college I attended evening MA classes and studied in the basement until late into the night. People used to laugh at me for leaving home to study – they did not speak to me. When my result was announced, I had attained 3rd position in the whole of my province. Many people congratulated me. With the exception of my mother-in-law and children, none of my in-laws praised me. My own father did not support me – my brother was my sole supporter from my family. Others who laughed at me now respect me and ask themselves: how can a girl who we subdued, pressed down, be a teacher now?
My focus was always my books and studies – I wanted to study – I studied in the light of the heater when my husband turned the room light off, when he turned the heater off I studied under the street light. I always wanted to become a doctor. It broke my heart that I could not carry on with my love for science but that did not stop me from studying further.
This tribal area, its tribal rules and customs tortured me….
Today, I am halfway through my PhD – my struggle made me independent. My next aim is to achieve an ‘overseas’ degree – I am not ready to compromise on my dream just yet!”