Sunday, August 25, 2013

Because I am a Woman!

First a story, then a poem.

The other day, I was talking to a mother about her daughter who had recently contributed her first ever earnings to a project that aims to educate girls from Himalayan villages. This young lady is now leading a group of young volunteers in a third world country and has no plans of leading a safe comfortable life that she can easily afford. Digging a little deeper, I learned that as a teen, this young woman had suffered a horrific attack on herself, which nearly destroyed her. It took her over six years to fully recover from the trauma- which she did by reading about other people who have suffered, writing about herself, and talking to wise people who guided and mentored her out of her pain. Having overcome her own trauma, she now spends her life helping others in trouble.

I stopped in my tracks. I had been struggling with my ambivalent thoughts about the role of education of girls in a society so seeped in tradition and resistant to change, as I see here in this small village that is my new home. I had nagging doubts about the effect of educating just a few girls in such a society. I was cynical about bringing lasting changes from disjointed and intermittent interventions. I was looking for Earth-shaking transformation, and not finding enough hope for that. Desperately wanting to believe, I was confused by my continued disbelief.

What I had forgotten, and what the story of this young lady reminded me, was that transformation begins in the smallest unit, one person, first. What I had forgotten was that there is great power and potential in each human being. What I had also forgotten about was the great healing capacity in  discourse with the wise, in person or through books. But mainly, what I had forgotten was how I myself was transformed and how my transformation would have been impossible if I didn't have the tools to make it happen.

In that instant, with that story, my doubts vanished and I was converted.

Soon after, I came across this poem, Because I am a Girl, by Kamla Bhasin. I read it in Hindi (see images below) first and then found its translation online. What a powerful meaningful poem. I prefer the Hindi version because it connects deeply and has (at least) one powerful line, most meaningful to my conversion, that the translation misses (ज्ञानी से बतियाना है ).

Hope it will inspire everyone who reads it, but what the heck, even one inspired person will do! 

Because I am a Girl- by Kamla Bhasin

A father asks his daughter:
Study? Why should you study?
I have sons aplenty who can study.
Girl, why should you study?

The daughter tells her father:
Since you ask, here’s why I must study.
Because I am a girl, I must study.

Long denied this right, I must study
For my dreams to take flight, I must study
Knowledge brings new light, so I must study
For the battles I must fight, I must study
Because I am a girl, I must study.

To avoid destitution, I must study
To win independence, I must study
To fight frustration, I must study
To find inspiration, I must study
Because I am a girl, I must study.

To fight men’s violence, I must study
To end my silence, I must study
To challenge patriarchy I must study
To demolish all hierarchy, I must study.
Because I am a girl, I must study.

To mould a faith I can trust, I must study
To make laws that are just, I must study
To sweep centuries of dust, I must study
To challenge what I must, I must study
Because I am a girl, I must study.

To know right from wrong, I must study.
To find a voice that is strong, I must study
To write feminist songs I must study
To make a world where girls belong, I must study.
Because I am a girl, I must study.

~Kamla Bhasin
This poem originally appeared on, which invites you all to find out more about Kamla Bhasin’s women’s empowerment organization in New Delhi, India, Sangat.


  1. Despair is not a solution. Positive reinforcement is. I should know. I have been teaching girls for the last 22 years. Delhi is not safe for girls but it is not as bleak as our media depicts.

    Boys need to be taught moral values, first and foremost. I do not wish to get into arguments. I believe in doing, not despairing neither shouting myself hoarse from the rooftop.

    Our own friends who live outside of India (you know them) provide lip service. I ask them what are they contributing to bring about change in our country? I might sound harsh but I speak the truth, girl!!

    I have written poems on child abuse and lot more...and many have asked my permission to get those published in e-zines. I say, feel free to publish as long as you credit me. If I can help in bringing about awareness even in a small way, that is good enough for me.....

  2. Great poem and blog! Loved it Puja Anand :-)

    Arima Das-Nandy
    your fellow Irwinite!

  3. Boys and men can embrace and repeat this poem too. They can say it with its original words, using "girl" for their identity as their way of identifying with girls and women too. If they feel they cannot identify with girls or women, they can change the word girls to boys or men if they need to.
    Hello to Kamla from Chicago.

  4. Kamla's work helps to educate, unite and motivate its readers and repeaters in a very educational experience.