“Education is for ugly girls. Education is for girls who can’t find husbands to take care of them.” These conversations happened often while I was growing up. Education wasn’t a priority. What could these infidels teach you? You already know how to cook and clean and take care of children! Education is the most prominent threat if your life’s purpose is domestic slavery. School was a fascinating place because it was the only setting where I could be a child. It was the only place where I didn’t have to cook, clean or provide free childcare. School was my only break from adult responsibilities.
Girl’s education is very important because education neglect happens every day. Whenever childcare was unavailable, I had to stay home to take care of my siblings. I knew that education was my only way out. I was told that my forced wedding was all expense paid. I was nearly forced into marriage when I didn’t have health insurance. When I expressed desire to go to college, I was told I had to take out loans. That’s when I knew an education was the answer to creating a better life for myself. Education could provide opportunities that didn’t exist.
Growing up, I was told I was “too pretty” for an education. I was told that unlike “ugly” girls, I didn’t have to work so hard in life. When I decided to go to college, I worked multiple jobs to afford tuition, car repairs, clothes, books and a Macbook. I graduated two weeks after my 22nd birthday. In college, I took a Law & Politics of Reproduction class. I learned about how the birth control pill was tested on Black Puerto Rican women prior to FDA approval. We learned about the Hyde Amendment which restricts reproductive access for low-income women.
Women’s education in the US has a tumultuous history. On June 23, 1972, Title IX implemented educational equality between women and men by reprimanding sexual harassment on campus and appropriated equal funding to girls’ educational programs. Title IX also reprimanded the illegal discrimination of pregnant teen girls at school. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 granted women the right to own a credit card.
I am grateful for the rights I have today. I am able to access an education without fear of suspension if I report sexual assault, obtain my own credit card, and travel solo to interesting countries like Trinidad & Tobago and Colombia. My ancestors fought for my right to live without fear of violence. I no longer have to accept a world that seeks to exclude women from public spheres. Being able to work, travel and live on my own terms is powerful.
I have this life because I escaped forced marriage at 17. I made the right choice.