“I was married when I was 11 years old. I don’t remember a thing. What would I remember? After a few years of living with my husband, I slowly came to understand that my husband was not right. The people who had arranged the marriage had tricked my parents. He could not speak and was like a little child. I was not happy. I always knew something was wrong with him. I wanted to run away but I worried about hurting the pride of my parents. So, I just stayed.
I saw the husbands of my friends go to work and do nice things for their wives but my story was different. When I turned 15, I was able to think more, about what was good for me and what was bad for me. So I decided that I wanted to get a divorce. Being a woman in the society is already hard enough and now I was a divorcee. People would talk about how I had abandoned my ‘poor’ husband. But no one came to ask me how I felt. I didn’t want to be married at 11. Who asked me? I didn’t even know what marriage was.
Slowly I started to participate in training camps that would teach women about equal rights and freedom. So the more I started getting involved in these events and interacting with more men and more women, I started to find my true self. I could finally talk. Tell people, both men and women, about how I felt.
I also realised that people will always talk behind your back. Even today, when I visit households to spread awareness about different social ills, I hear people say, “Look, the all-knowing woman is here to preach. Don’t listen to her.” But I don’t care. I have power over such things now. I walk with my head held high.” (Parbati Kumari Joshi, Girichauga 6, Doti)