My strength? To never give up : Raj Kumari Paswan

I am 35 years old and have four kids already. Isn’t it outrageous? I had my youngest son ten years ago. I was 16 years old, studying in 8th grade when my parents arranged my marriage. They did not even care to think if it was logical or how I would feel about it. Things are different now though, parents do not believe that marriage is a liability. The usual trend now is to have one’s kid married in their 20’s which I feel is the right thing to do. 
I was an average student but my education was portrayed as insignificant to me by my own society. I did not realize what it would mean for the future of my family. I have four kids, the fourth one being the only son. It was clearly the preference of boy over girl in our society that pressurized and forced me to continuously give birth until I had one. I was very aware that four children meant lots of money and time but I had no choice even when I knew that there was only one source of income in my family. I felt helpless but I had no option, I tried standing up for what was right but I failed. At the moment, I think we are doing fairly okay as parents. My eldest daughter has always been average in her studies and does not show much interest in it but my younger ones are a lot better, actually they are gifted. I taught the eldest one some stitching so that she can take care of herself when time requires her to. Whereas the second one likes to get busy with the cattle and spends most of her time in fields. As for me, I am trying my best to pass on some of my good skill to them and make sure they are capable of standing up for themselves.
Three dollars each for monthly school fees makes it six dollars a month for two which is already a big amount for us and with academic competition on the rise extra tuition classes are a must. We can only afford to pay three dollars for one and two dollars for another. We chose the second for our son since he is the youngest and probably needs more guidance but it breaks my heart when my little daughter asks if it is true that we didn’t send her for tuition because she is a girl and is the less preferred one.

She says “I really want to study and do well, why don’t you help me?” She is very young right now but I hope she understands soon what two dollars mean to us.

 I want to be the mother that I did not have, I will do all that I can to make sure all my kids have a secure future. I will always support them if there is ever an opportunity to learn a thing or two, even if it requires them to travel all the way to Kathmandu. I definitely get worried reading about cases of violence but I believe my kids know what they are up to and we trust them.

My father in law took thousand dollars as loan which multiplied into a gigantic amount merely in 3 years. We had to deposit our little house with the loan provider and pay three times the real amount. My husband worked as a daily wage laborer but there is no work now, he has not worked in a while and we are lending money again. He is trying to find job in Malaysia every now and then. To live without him will be the most difficult thing for our family. It does not feel good to have him go through extreme hardships only for our survival. But we have no other options than to let him go.  I am hopeful that my husband will find some work and we will be able to get rid of the loans soon. We do have government loan facilities but they work in a systematic way, taxing installments each month. But since we do not earn any salary, we loose that opportunity as well.

My husband loves me dearly, I have not known of the violence that a lot of women speak about. He treats me like a queen even when I am not as beautiful as other women. He has stood by me as my foundation and has never let me feel low. I have always drawn my strengths from my family and the love we have for each other.
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Once I was summoned at a Brahmin’s house in the village, I was waiting outside and I heard them talk. The parents of the girl who took me to her place were scolding her, asking her how could she think of bringing a ‘Chamar’ (untouchable) to the house. They said that the house had become impure. I felt like my existence was a curse, that I was incapable of respect, how could my presence be so polluting?
Life has been difficult and unfair but today I proudly identify myself as a Dalit woman and take pride in being called the god’s child. I choose to stand with what makes me and fight with what aims to break me. Nothing or no one can take away my success from me.

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