Soumya is studying to be a teacher, and she hopes to one day teach all children the senselessness of gender discrimination.
Seven years ago, Soumya became an adult. That was the year her father remarried, just six months after Soumya's mother died. The year he chose to raise his son instead of his daughter.
"God Will Take Care of Me"
Soumya could have given up. She could have believed the lies of poverty and bigotry that told her she would never amount to anything, that she should be like the millions of girls who drop out of school in India each year. But the day Soumya was forced out of her home was a turning point.
For two years, Soumya had been taught by the staff of the Compassion-assisted CarmelChild Development Center(IN-772) that she was a precious child of God. And on the day her father and stepmother kicked her out, she said with certainty, "God will take care of me."
Never Give Up
In a way, Soumya was relieved to be out of her father and stepmother's home. She went to live with her grandmother and was able to continue her education through the support of her Compassion sponsor. She says the center was an "oasis of peace and hope" in the months following both her mother's death and her father's abandonment.
But sometimes, the words of her stepmother came back and Soumya wondered if the struggle to survive was worth it. Wouldn't it be easier to drop out of school like half the teens in her community? But the constant prayers and words of encouragement from the center staff kept her going.
"I survived because of Compassion," she says. "The staff there showed me much love & more than I had known since my mummy died."
"&They Can Achieve Anything"
Soumya, now 18, says she has learned much through her experiences most of all, that all children, regardless of gender, should have the right to an education. This passion has inspired her to be a teacher, and she recently completed her teaching certificate at a local vocational school.
With no support from her family, Soumya knows her future will be difficult. But she is determined to continue her education, serving as a role model to those in her community.
"Once I complete my courses, I dream of doing my undergraduate studies in sociology," says Soumya. "Even if I have to work my way through college, that is my dream. I want to help other girls know that they can achieve anything."
Editor's Note: While gender discrimination may seem like an outdated concept in developed countries, in India, it is a daily reality. The statistics are grim: An estimated 50 million baby girls have been killed through abortions, 190 million females in India are illiterate and girls are more at risk to die of malnutrition because the health of sons takes precedence.*
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