This story is part of a campaign run by the GEM Report, #Iamthe1stgirl, to accompany the launch of the 2020 GEM Gender Report. The campaign tells the stories of many girls who were the first in their family to graduate, demonstrating progress in gender equality in education that the Report shows has taken place since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 25 years ago. The campaign aims to amplify the message that an equal generation is an educated one.
I am 26 years old. I was born in a village in India, Nimgaon Bhogi, and have followed my dream to become the first girl in my family to graduate. I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering and now work as an Engineer for a Dutch company. I credit my success to the support and guidance I received in Life Skills Education (LSE) sessions that transferred me from being a shy village girl to an entrepreneur. I hope I will have my own small-scale industry in the near future.
Here is my story:
When I was a child, my parents initially operated a flour mill, but the earnings from it were not enough to feed our family of four. Then, my mother started working in dairy farming, one of the livelihood interventions that a local NGO, Ashta No Kai (ANK) introduced in our village. This income changed our family’s lives for the better. My mother successfully ran the dairy business and was President of a small saving groups that Ashta No Kai had helped to organize. She also participated in ANK workshops about gender issues, which gradually changed her attitude towards girls’ education and early marriages. While I received several marriage proposals after I completed my junior college diploma, my mother strongly supported me to reject them all and encouraged me to pursue my education. I regret that my mother did not have the opportunity to become literate, although she was very intelligent.
My mother is my role model, and I want to follow in her footsteps to try to do my utmost to better myself and my family. When I was in grade 9, I decided to study Engineering, inspired by an older student who became an engineer. I scored well on the grade 10 exam, and easily gained admission to the Government Polytechnic, where I was selected for the Instrumentation Engineering program. Although initially it was difficult for me to understand instruction in English, I studied hard and got top grades in my Engineering Diploma exam. I later decided to pursue a Bachelor of Engineering degree in the same field, and placed highly in that too.
It was my mother’s greatest wish that I become an Engineer, and I am happy that I could make this wish a reality. My status in society changed when I became an engineer and started working for a Dutch company. People began to respect me for my knowledge and perseverance, which I gained thanks to the self-confidence I learnt in the LSE program. I believe I am a role model in the village, since other parents hold me up as an example to their daughters.
I am pleased with how far I have come. Although I held off on marriage plans to focus on academics and my career, I decided to get married at 25, because I felt I had achieved a respectable position in my job, my family, and society. I found a partner of my own choosing who is educated, comes from a good family, has a steady job, and allows me to continue to work.