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August 17, 2015

Travel to India builds solidarity between women

A Microfinance Group at a meeting in Hyderabad Slum in Andhra Pradesh, India ( Women members of Microfinance Group )

By Rachel Armany

While looking through a photo album of my Indian host mother’s wedding day, I learned that she was 17-years-old the day she was arranged to marry a 30-year-old man from another village whom she did not know.

As a 17-year-old American girl, the fears that keep me awake at night are things like a robber coming into my house or an unknown person assaulting me on the street — events that could possibly happen in my future, but are fortunately not realities for me.

Many Indian girls my age cannot sleep at night because they are scared of something completely tangible: the fact that tomorrow, they could be married to an older man they do not know. How can they know how he will treat them?

While my host mom’s marriage ended up working out well, some are not so lucky. If women are unhappy in marriage here, there is little that they can do: they cannot support themselves on their own and divorce is socially taboo.

It is very difficult for me to fully understand the fears of a 17-year-old girl from a small mountain village in India, but I like to believe that the challenges we face as women tie us together, despite living in completely different worlds.

I’ve learned so many things from each woman I’ve met here in India. I appreciate their kind, warm and hardworking disposition, and feel sorrow for the sociocultural structures that constrict their lives. I am proud of the women who can rise up after they are routinely knocked down and I stand in solidarity with the ones who cannot.

Especially in India, I feel pride in being a woman.

Rachel Armany is a rising senior at Stoughton High School in Stoughton, Massachusetts. Rachel had the opportunity to travel to India through The Experiment in International Living, which provides innovative and immersive summer abroad programs for high school students. The Experiment is a program of World Learning, a nonprofit organization empowering people, communities and institutions to create a more peaceful and just world.

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