What do you want to be when you grow up?
All my life adults, teachers, and peers have asked me this question. As much as the answers have varied, there have been a few constants. I’ve always strived fro highest education and greater opportunities. I have never considered being a wife or a mother as a stand-alone answer to this question. In Kalol, a few hours’ drive outside of Ahmedabad, we visited an anganwadi. In the morning it hosts fifty preschoolers but in the afternoon it transforms into a center for girls. Due to some mix-ups on the drive we arrived late and spent the afternoon with the girls of the small village instead of with the preschoolers.
Ages sixteen to twenty-one, these girls were the first beneficiaries of an NGO we visited my age. Though I had spent a good amount of time with the Cathedral and ASB students, I feel like these girls were a more accurate glimpse at Indian teenage life.
Through broken translations, hand motions, and smiles, we began to communicate with one another. The Niswarth kids prodded with questions on education and family life. Someone asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?”.
Girl after girl answered identically: a good housewife.
This answer was heartbreaking to me. Not because there is anything wrong with being a housewife, but not a single girl I spoke to had dreams or believed that they could be anything besides a housewife.
After spending my spring term researching the women who changed gender roles in science and engineering for my History 300 paper, I was struck by the difference.
In the United States, we had plenty of issues but girls have dreams, in the big cities and small towns and their parents support them. Not in rural India.
But the mindset is changing. As much as I am upset by the fact that these girls don’t want to have a career and dropped out of school in seventh grade, they are happy with their choice.
They hope that their daughters and sons are equally educated. They wish their daughters to have choice and opportunity. The realization that change is not possible overnight hit me like a truck. So the anganwadi may not drastically change the lives of these girls’ education but slowly it is changing the mindset of the community. If Setco’s anganwadi continues to stand as a pillar in the community and a model for others, then someday girls from Kalol may dream bigger than anyone else.