“When I was about to drop out of school, the IMAGE project provided an opportunity for me to continue my education”, said 18-year-old Somya, an early married girl from Bagalkot District, India. In her community, many parents arrange their girl child’s marriage at an early age as they cannot provide for them. Terre des Hommes Netherlands aims to support them to continue their education for a brighter future.
For Somya, her marriage was arranged when she was only 9-months old while her 17-year-old sister is already a widow. Their father has not been supportive since they were young and their mother has been the only breadwinner of the family. “There is no choice left for me to decide about my life and education. I have accepted to go to my in-law's home because my mother struggles to take care of us. I think her responsibilities would have been reduced”, Somya added.
When Terre des Hommes Netherlands' IMAGE project was initiated in the Bagalkot district, Somya’s village was identified as a community in need. She was identified as an early married girl and was supported to continue her studies. The counselling and awareness program helped her parents to decide not to send her to the in-laws' home until she turned 18-years-old.
During COVID-19 pandemic, she was supported with an E-Tab for her exam preparation, along with sanitation and hygienic kits. She also learned sewing skills from her neighbours and friends during her idle time.
Furthermore, the Bagalkot staff team observed her keen learning and interest in tailoring skills. In September 2021, she was provided with sewing machines where is able to earn a meagre amount which helps her in being financially independent.
“After learning how to sew the clothes, I had thought about having my own tailoring machine so that I can practice. I usually step back when I think about asking my mother. When I got the opportunity to own a tailoring machine, I felt very happy. I am now able to take care of my expenses”, Somya said after her and her mother’s concern in being able to afford her education. With the tailoring machine, she is now able to run a small business.
The IMAGE project had been supporting early married girls such as Somya and her sister in finding new paths in their life. Being married at an early age, these girls often assume a life of a house wife for the rest of their lives. However, Terre des Hommes Netherlands provides them an opportunity to learn skills and continue their education so that they can pursue careers or create their own businesses.
“My dream is to be a nurse and serve poor people like us”, said Somya.