By Sarah K. | South Asia
Prabhouti's mother took some convincing at first, but now she's proud that her daughter has finished high school. Photo by Sarah K
Thick wooden pillars are wrapped in stray red cloth. Soon they’ll be covered entirely in a red tent in the hard-packed dirt courtyard of Prabhouti’s childhood home. Ducking under the doorway decorated with shining ribbons, Prabhouti enters the swirl of activity that always accompanies preparations for a wedding: her wedding.
Traditionally, Prabhouti should have married years ago. Girls in her village are married early – sometimes as young as twelve years old – just like their mothers were before them. The best Prabhouti could have expected was a second- or third-grade education before leaving school to learn house work in preparation for a lifetime spent caring for her family and her husband’s household.
Prabhouti is nineteen now and has just finished her first year of college. She’s invited the people responsible for her marrying at this “ripe old age” – friends from Chetna, a community health and development ministry—to her wedding after meeting them a decade ago. They have helped transform Prabhouti’s vision of what to expect out of life.
Chetna is run by the Emmanuel Hospital Association, a partner project of SIM. Each of its three-year project cycles focus on solving one of the dozens of systemic problems in the villages it has chosen to serve. A decade ago, they were mobilizing community volunteers to run “adolescent groups” – gender-separated groups for teenage girls or boys. The groups were places teenagers could get teaching and discuss issues no one else would talk to them about. A book designed by Chetna discussed taboo issues like early marriage, pornography, and childbirth along with more common topics like hand-washing and education. It was in one of these groups that Prabhouti learned that getting married before she turned eighteen isn’t only harmful to her future, but it’s actually illegal in her country!
Prabhouti’s parents were already talking about arranging her marriage when she came home with this new knowledge. She enlisted the help of her group leader to convince her family to delay arranging the marriage so she could continue to study. At first her parents were nervous about breaking from established tradition, and some of the neighbors did gossip. But now Prabhouti’s mom couldn’t be prouder that her daughter has made it so much further in her studies than anyone ever dreamed.
Prabhouti is about to enter marriage with a wider experience and a better chance at helping to support her family economically. Encountering Chetna has not only changed her life, but the course of her entire future family.
Pray for Chetna and SIM partners as they work to encourage education for young women like Prabhouti in South Asia, and consider giving to projects like these at SIM. Pray for the gospel to go out among these communities and that many will turn to Christ.
Want to use your education background as a missionary for Christ in places like South Asia? Contact SIM.