All of it is real. It isn’t just something I read about anymore; there are real problems in this world. It’s my friends. It’s my co-workers. It’s the children I tutor. It’s my housekeeper. It’s my neighbors.
Women come into Maitri daily to seek help for abuse they’ve suffered; the children I tutor are way too skinny; the families I walk past on the way to work are living underneath highway overpasses; the children that stop my auto rickshaw to beg for money dig through the garbage piles for food. The “real” world is pressing down on me everywhere I turn. My smallness and inability to do anything significant is pressing down even harder.
It was a nice bubble that I lived in. Hearing and reading about the problems of the world, but still getting to retreat into my secluded, safe space. Yes, it’s comfortable to be ignorant and unaffected, but is that really a good way to live? While people were suffering around the world, I was reading their stories from the comfort of my large, clean home or researching their problems in a university classroom (and I didn't have to walk miles to it or fear for my life while at school).
I can choose who I want to marry. What I want to do. Where I want to live. How I want to be treated. Where I want to go. These choices used to be classified as “rights” in my mind; however, I am now realizing that they are privileges that so many women in the world do not enjoy. I am not going to waste these privileges that I have been given—if I am lucky enough to have options, I am going to make the best decisions possible. I do not have to fight for myself, but I will fight for others because it is wrong that so many girls throughout the world do not even know that there are other options. It is wrong that a girl was shot in the head for trying to go to school. It is wrong that 67 million children do not go to school, and more than half of them are girls. It is wrong that 7 in 10 women around the world are victims of physical and/or sexual violence during their lifetimes. It is wrong that 14 million girls are married before age 18 each year. It is wrong that medical complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death in women age 15-19. It is wrong that around 3 million girls each year are victims of genital mutilation or cutting.
If any of these facts make your blood boil, like they do mine, then we must take action. Knowledge brings responsibility. I am lucky to be working for an organization that is taking action--and I'm even luckier that Maitri is letting me see these problems and work on them, too. We cannot sit idly by while, around the world, these very real problems are affecting very real people.