changing India: girls' lives.
Three girls introduce us to India, home to over one billion people and the world's largest democracy. its incredibly diverse in languages, religions, ethnicities, and ways of life.
India has 28 states and 8 territories with dense cities, lush jungles, and mountains.
Aarthika, from a rural village, shares her art. Tanvi, from a big city, reflects on girls' lives past and present in her poetry. And, Charlotte from the US interviews Tanvi.
Poverty, gender inequality and a rigid caste system used to be the norm everywhere in the nation. Customs like child marriage and dowries limited girls' future choices.
There has been much progress but these are still major challenges for many girls and women in India. At the same time, recent decades have seen tremendous advances in K-12 education, economic development and social transformation.
First, Tanvi tells us about the current state of COVID-19 as India is one of the hardest-hit regions in the world.
"This second wave of the pandemic has brought a massive surge in COVID cases. New variants are more severe. Political and religious gatherings across the country also contributed to the surge. The vaccination campaign can't keep up.
"Now oxygen and hospital beds fall short. Cemeteries and crematoriums are full. School is online. Final exams are postponed or cancelled. Every call or text message brings news about someone infected.
"But bad news can come with something good. People come to each other's rescue from various parts of India, transcending barriers of culture and religion. It is heartwarming to see total strangers spreading love, positivity and optimism. In this crisis, we see the truth that the deepest challenges bring out the best in us!"
In the midst of these hard times, Aarthika also reflects on the positive, sharing her love for her home by painting, My Beautiful Village.
Months before India's COVID crisis Tanvi shared a poem with NMG through our website. Her poem was inspired by reading her grandmother's journal and reflecting on how life has gotten better for girls in India.
Read her poem on page 16
Tanvi's poem explores many big themes. Charlotte and Tanvi got together to discuss it.
CF: What inspired you to write this poem?
TN: After learning about my family history through pictures and my mother's stories, I wanted to write something as a reminder of everything Indian women have faced. My poem expresses hope for a world where women and men are equal, where each person can spread their wings and fly.
CF: Your poem mentions dowry. What is that?
TN: Google defines dowry as "a transfer of parental property ... upon the marriage of a daughter." I believe it was a cruel act forcing women into marriages where the husband and his family took money for accepting the bride. It took away women's dignity and reduced them to objects instead of equal human beings.
CF: The grandmother in your story talks about reading "the Gita." What is that?
TN: The Bhagavad Gita is one of the main holy scriptures in the Hindu religion. The title has been interpreted as "the words of the Lord," "the Divine Song," and "Celestial Song." It imparts many valuable lessons and is treasured and protected by Hindus across the world.
by Aarthika R., Tanvi Nagar, and Charlotte Finnell