In the movie Inception (see video below), Leo DeCaprio’s character realizes he can dramatically alter a person’s life by simply implanting the seed of an idea deep within his or her subconscious. "An idea is like a virus” he says. “Resilient, highly contagious. The smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define, or destroy you.”
It is true. All is takes is a tiny inkling of a thought to start something big. It is crucial to begin spreading ideas of empowerment early on, especially in rural areas where opportunities are lacking. On Sunday we welcomed over one hundred rural, unmarried girls between the ages of twelve and twenty-two to the ashram for a day of education, empowerment and fun. We discussed marriage and domestic life. Many of the girls believed twenty to twenty-two to be the ideal age to get married. The consensus was that getting married before twenty means you do not care about your education, but an unmarried twenty-three-year-old is an embarrassment to herself and her family. Of course, we are not in the business of forcing western ideas and customs, but we shared our personal beliefs on the issue and reminded the girls that their value is not determined by their bride price. We also shared dreams and visions for our future. Many girls wanted to be engineers and bankers, but didn't think a college education was financially feasible. In India, college costs about $1,500 a year. We encouraged them to nurture their intellect and not get discouraged. We also talked about the female body and menstruation, eliminating confusion and shame. We told them that they are not dirty or cursed when they get their period (a belief held by many rural women and passed through the generations).
The second half of the day was spent playing games and celebrating each other as women. We invited girls to come onto the stage and share their talents with us. Two girls danced and several girls sang. Our group of Americans did a rendition to of “I Am Woman." The song set an appropriate tone for the day. We also played games where the girls had to work in teams. In between the games, everyone got on stage and danced to indian music. It was a blast!
Young Girls Day may not change the world, but it is a good place to start. We need to open minds and get young women thinking about who they are, what they want and what they deserve. If I accomplish one thing during my time here, I hope to sow seeds of ideas and possibilities for these young girls. From there, the possibilities are limitless.