When girls receive an education, an entire society benefits. But barriers like poverty, teen pregnancy, and child labor may keep about 20 million girls from attending school, according to data from the Right to Education Forum.
We recently met a young girl named Rukhsana whose dream is to go to school and give back to her community. She has faced many challenges in her journey, but she hasn’t given up. And because of you, she is now well on her way to her dreams.
This is Rukhsana’s story of hope.
In 2017, Rukhsana and her family were forced to flee their home country of Myanmar because of genocide. While they were living in a refugee settlement in Bangladesh, Rukhsana began to share with her family her hopes for her future: most importantly, that she could finish high school, attend college, and work in a job that gives back to her community.
In Rukhsana’s culture, however, girls are expected to get married—not pursue an education.
Soon, Rukhsana’s brother, who was living in India, heard of Rukhsana’s hopes. He promised her that, if she traveled to India to live with him, he would help her go to school.
So, at 15 years old, Rukhsana packed up her belongings, left her family, and traveled to India to follow her dreams. But three days after arriving in India, her brother arranged her marriage without her consent.
For many young girls just like Rukhsana, marriage and childbirth happen at a very young age. And often, without the young girl’s consent. Also, many schools will not permit a girl who is pregnant to go to school.
Rukhsana and her new husband made a home in a refugee settlement in India, where Rukhsana soon gave birth to a son. Their living conditions were poor, and they often lacked adequate shelter or food. Rukhsana’s family lacked some of the most basic things, and she began experiencing depression and anxiety. Her hopes of an education seemed farther away than ever.
When our team connected with Rukhsana, we helped with food, clothing, and counseling sessions to help with her anxiety and depression. When Rukhsana had appendicitis and had to have surgery, donations like yours helped cover her medical bills. As we worked with Rukhsana, we learned of her ambitions of going to school and getting a job she could be proud of.
Rukhsana did not speak any Hindi or English at the time—India’s two primary languages. We helped her find the right language classes. We then worked with the local school system to enroll Rukshana in 9th grade. We are thrilled to share that she has recently completed grade 10.
“When I came to CERI, I got new hope and courage,” Rukhsana said. “I got the opportunity to get an education.”
Rukhsana now volunteers with CERI in India, where she mentors students, helping them navigate online learning. She also volunteers as a paralegal with a local organization that advocates for women who experience domestic violence.
Rukhsana is well on her way to fulfilling her dreams. But for her, education is about more than personal fulfillment.
“I want to become a Human Rights Activist after completing my education,” Rukhsana said. “I want my son to get a good education… I want to set an example. I will work for the betterment of my community and raise awareness about women’s rights.”
As a refugee and a young wife and mother, Rukhsana didn’t get to experience many of the simple joys of childhood. For her, education is one path toward changing the story. But she can’t achieve her dreams alone.