Sangeetha’s StoryApril 28, 2016
Think back to when you were a teenager. Do you remember how it felt when the world held promise and possibility as you chased your dreams for the future?
While you are thinking back to that time in your own life, I’d like for you to meet a very brave girl. Sangeetha (san-GHEE-tah) is seventeen-years-old, and already she has felt the weight of the world on her small shoulders.
Sangeetha’s parents are poor and could not take care of her financially, so she was taken to live in an orphanage when she was ten-years-old. “My stay at the orphanage was very special,” says Sangeetha.
During one of her visits back home to see her parents over a holiday, she was attacked and raped by a man in her village. She was only fourteen years old. Her parents were afraid to report her attack to the police. If it became known that she had been raped, they were afraid no one would marry her. Sadly, this occurs far too often in India. According to government figures, a woman is raped every twenty minutes in India, and many rapes are left unreported – just like Sangeetha’s story.
Because her parents were afraid that news of her attack would get out, and that their daughter would be shamed, Sangeetha’s parents pulled her out of the orphanage. She was only sixteen, but they had arranged a marriage for her. It is technically illegal for girls to marry before their eighteenth birthday in India, but this also happens far too often.
“I’m mad at my parents for forcing me into marriage. I know they had good intentions, but they made me feel like a burden to them,” Sangeetha explains.
Sangeetha was rescued by someone she calls Betcy Akka (Akka means big sister in the Tamil language of southern India). Betcy and her husband Francis, both part of the SheHopes family, talked the girl’s parents out of forcing Sangeetha into marriage by promising to let her live with them and earn money as a housekeeper. “I love Betcy Akka very, very much because she is so kind to me. She is the only family I’ve got. I want to be with her all my life.”
Because of the trauma surrounding her rape and attempt at a forced arranged marriage, Sangeetha was not able to pass her tenth grade exams. Betcy is committed to helping her catch up in her studies so Sangeetha can finish high school, and then go on to study at a university to become a police officer someday. This precious girl has had the unimaginable happen to her – but her hope is to one day be able to protect other girls just like her.
The heart of SheHopes is to help girls like Sangeetha. I hope you’ll join our SheHopes family! Together we can give them shelter, help them finish their education, and give them HOPE so they can pursue their dreams. I can’t think of a better way change the world – one life at a time!