Between marriage and education

Marrying girls off in their college can totally change their priorities and discourage them from pursuing jobs and entrepreneurship …writes Noor-E-Ferdous

04Having stepped into the shoes of a university student, I realise that they do not always have things go so easy. Yes, there is the opportunity of meeting new people and getting to know yourself better, but there is also the constant pressure of exams, assignment deadlines and preparing for the future. However, in sub-continental societies there is also the extra headache for girls—the pressure to get married, which seems to thwart Bangladeshi girls to a large extent from striving for financial independence and a career that they can be proud of. Although many girls in Bangladesh get married while still pursuing under graduation studies, this societal pattern is one that is rather holding the country back and therefore needs to be broken now.
Getting married while still studying at university can give rise to a lot of problems for the individual and the society. First of all, the society as a whole has to realise that women make up half of the population of the country and therefore can also contribute half the economy of the nation. Marrying girls off in their college can totally change their priorities and discourage them from pursuing jobs and entrepreneurship. In all the advanced economies of the world, women are expected to work and provide for themselves, which benefits those economies immensely. Moreover, a career is not only a means of earning money but also a means of finding self worth and esteem.
Marriage and studies simply do not go together. Having to please your in-laws by being the dutiful wife and ace all your exams at the same time by attending all classes is just not possible. You can hardly work for your papers at the library if you have to worry about preparing the afternoon tea for in-laws. Getting married at this stage of life can severely hamper studies because there comes a point when the girl has to make some hard choices. In most cases, the girl has to sacrifice her studies in order to fulfill her duties as a wife, which also means letting go of her dreams and career prospects. Many try to adapt to the situation by continuing studies during marriage side by side. However, there are numerous cases that show that success in both areas is rarely achieved. In most cases, their CGPA is affected considerably and once that CGPA plunges, it is extremely difficult to recover. Besides the time taken to complete their degrees also get longer. The negative impact on their studies in turn ruins their career prospects.  It is not right to ask a person to let go of something as crucial as education and pursuing one’s dreams because doing so means snatching that person’s purpose of life.
Moreover, student wives have to undergo a lot of psychological stress as a result of handling family matters and household duties along with the constant pressure of exams and assignments. Most are subjected to harsh criticism due to inability to take care of familial matters and attending social gatherings, which inflicts further trauma on them.  Then there is the disappointment and frustrations of not being able to reach one’s full potential and perform well at the academic arena, which add further stress on their minds. Having to face such emotional turmoil may eventually push them towards the edge of a nervous breakdown or lead them to be fine with broken dreams. College life for a girl is supposed to be about hanging out with friends, visit new places, open up to new experiences and above all finding the maturity they need to tackle the challenges that may come later in life. All of these can hardly come out of the anxiety to cook perfect dishes and fulfilling household duties before one is truly ready.
The responsibilities and stress of a married life amplifies even more if a baby is on the way. Becoming a mother is a big turning point in a woman’s life and if the person still has not completed her studies at this point, or is not matured enough as a person, things can get really messy. She would need to delay her studies in order to take care of both herself and the baby. If studies get in the middle of that, the psychological and physical health of both mother and baby would suffer tremendously. Motherhood is considered to be a joyous and life changing experience but for someone who is still attending university, motherhood can seem more like a nightmare and this nightmarish experience can damage the process of bonding between mother and child to the point of no return.
So, ask yourself this – is it right for a university girl to face so much pressure and still be okay with it? I believe that it is high time that Bangladeshi girls make their careers number one priority. Parents, relatives and the society as a whole have to embrace and honour this choice. Be it a forced arranged marriage or a consenting love marriage, I believe no person is truly ready to walk with someone else before finding one’s own feet firmly set on the ground. l
The writer is a student of North South University

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