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This story was written by Shucheesmita Simonti from BANGLADESH.

I am from Dhaka, Bangladesh. In 2011, I got ICCR scholarship to pursue higher studies in Pune University, India. Many people discouraged me from going abroad on my own because I am a girl. According to many, it is not a good idea for a young girl to go far away home while she is still unmarried. Such discriminatory remarks I have had to hear only because I am a girl.

But I decided not to pay heed to them and went ahead to fulfill my dream and I must say, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself. Leaving the comfort zone of one’s home and family teaches a person a lot. I learnt to fend for myself without calling my mom every now and then. Three years in Pune were transformative years of my life, as from a shy, introverted person I have gone on to volunteer in several youth festivals and conferences and even presented papers, anchored and took part in cultural programs. After graduating in commerce with first class, I moved to New Delhi to pursue my M.A. in International Relations as during the three years of college I discovered the purpose of my life; to become an international civil servant and serve the world at large. I discovered that I could be friends with people who are from a very different cultural background and that I loved to travel. I have travelled to different cities in India and recently have been to Sri Lanka as well for a youth conference. None of these would have happened had I backed out from shifting to India just because I am a ‘girl’.

Now, as I am about to turn 25 very soon, many of my friends and well-wishers are urging me to find a match and get hitched soon. For them, it is like a medical emergency – either I get married soon or it seems I will never be able to get married. What a pity! It is as if my worth is limited to my marital status and giving birth to children and everything else I have done and trying to do holds little or no merit.

It is as if my worth is limited to my marital status...

This is not just ‘my story’; this is the story of countless young ambitious women across our part of the world who are struggling because of society’s pressure upon us to get married even if we are not ready for it. It is not as if we do not ever want to get married; it is just that we are not ready yet because we are not yet independent and mentally prepared for a life-changing decision as such. I, for certain, do not want to rush into a marriage against my own will and do not want to give up my passion for travelling and exploring just because the society thinks a girl cannot do all these things. I am also very much inspired by Wasfia Nazreen, a Bangladeshi mountaineer, writer and activist who have climbed all the Seven Summits and would want to embark on an adventure someday. I do not care how horrified some people would be at my apparent ‘audacity’, but I will go for my dreams and get married, if at all, only when I am ready and willing.

For those who are facing similar problems like me and are on the verge of giving up, all I can say is: “Marriage can wait, dreams don’t.”

This story was part of Safety First for Girls (SAFIGIs) #SharingNotShaming campaign.

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