This is a tale of two young women in Oaxaca who are struggling to decide if they want to follow their own dreams or give into the social pressure to marry at a very young age.
This month one of our middle school students, Basilia, did not return to the program. No official word came from the family until we contacted her sister, only rumors from the other students from her community. They brought the news, and the family later confirmed that a young man in her community had asked for her in marriage and her family felt it was a good match. The returning students noted that she had taken almost all of her personal belongings at the end of the school year, so this was something that had been planned by the family for some time. We are saddened that she did not feel comfortable enough to inform the staff and other students at the home that she was not returning, and that the family did not tell us so that we could open her spot for another student.
We are also concerned about the dynamic in the community which still promotes marriage at such a young age, 16. Her future husband is 23. The three other students from the same village stated that they did not have much contact with Bacilia this summer, due to the heavy rains, but that the few times they saw her she seemed indifferent about the wedding plans, although she did state clearly that she had little interest in continuing her studies. Her sister, who lives in Juchitan, also stated that she had offered to support Bacilia in her studies, but that Baci was not interested. We wish her the best and hope that this decision was one about which she was fully consenting, but no one seems to be able to indicate whether this is the case or not.
We had a long conversation regarding Bacilia´s choice or lack thereof about her wedding. Lucy then described another situation in the same village where a younger girl came to her for advice. The 12 year old had finished grade school the year before but had not left the village to continue her studies. She asked Lucy about her experiences of studying and if it was a good idea. Lucy encouraged her to continue her studies. The girl then disclosed to Lucy that her family was considering a marriage for her. A young man from the community, 23 years old, had asked her family for her in marriage and the family was feeling pressured to accept the match. Lucy said she advocated for continued studies and later heard that that young man´s family was upset because the girl had left on a visit to a sister and had not returned. The girl sent word to Lucy that she was going to stay with a family and go to middle school. Lucy hopes that the girl´s family can continue to resist the pressure of the young man for the marriage. We are so pleased that Lucy could be supportive to this young girl and help her with her decision. We hope more of the young women in the community will continue to seek to further their education and leave marriage for when they are older and more prepared for that step in their life and that CDC students and graduates can be mentors and friends for these young women.