FONDA GONZALES – A JOURNEY INTO INDIA

Young girls eating their midday meal at school
Young girls eating their midday meal at school.

I am a graduate student studying Conflict Resolution at Portland State University. I came into this field of study with a bachelors in Child and Family Studies, and have always had a focus on international work within both of these degrees. As part of my program I knew that I wanted to complete my practicum requirements abroad, and I knew right away that it would be India.

In a country with well over 1.5 billion people, I was intrigued and eager to learn about the many different issues that women and young girls face every day. I wanted to know how the people of India take care of their communities, and help ensure that marginalized communities have access to resources.

Coming to Educate Girls gave me a sense of the hardships and lifestyles that young girls and tribal families live on a day-to-day basis. It gave me the awareness and the knowledge of how education can be so valuable to those who are never quite able to attain it. It also made me realize my own privilege as a college educated woman. My intent was to learn from others and to understand, acknowledge, and validate the experiences of young girls who are facing some very challenging issues.

I visited schools, went to trainings, and met girls from various ages. They made me part of their group and felt comfortable enough to share their story with someone who was a complete stranger. Perhaps in a way I wasn’t a stranger. Maybe they saw our interests and goals were similar, supporting the education of girls, and that is where we had our common ground. Whatever it was I felt included, I felt accepted, and I also did everything to make them feel the same.

There is only so much one can gain from reading about these issues or watching a documentary on child marriage, female illiteracy, or dowry. I wanted exposure. I wanted to be challenged. I wanted my eyes to be open and my life to be changed. I got all of that. This opportunity has enriched my life in so many ways, and I couldn’t possibly be more grateful. I have always known that I want to work as a professional abroad, in developing countries, to support inclusion, peace building, and social change. This has only given more meaning to my goals and has encouraged me to continue on with this outlook.

Twitter: #educategirls #education #impact

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