These days I am seeing some articles (Biye: Porashona Sheshe, na Majhei) going on in the women’s pages on this topic, when is the right time for a woman to get married: before or after graduation from college (Undergraduate program). Recently I received an article from a young woman from Dhaka on the same topic. She nicely presented some case studies showing the fact that getting married before graduation seems to be a popular choice but when something unexpected happens (sickness, death, divorce) it leads to much less favorable consequences. Hence she, like other articles I mentioned, came to the conclusion that women should get married only after they have earned their bachelor’s degree. I was wondering is it really that black and white decision? Let’s take a good look on this topic.
The history of women’s education in Indian Subcontinent both at the primary and college levels is fairly new. It was the parent’s responsibility to educate the girls with religious rituals and household activities in order to find a bread earner (read ”husband”) for her. So the parents wanted to get it done as soon as possible because that is the only way they could make sure there is someone to support their daughter after their death.
As time changed women now-a-days go for higher educations and some of them have their own professional careers as well. This education is supposed to make a woman more financially independent therefore it should be much less of a goal, when the marriage issue comes, to find a person who can support her (financially). It seems counter intuitive though, in groom searching criteria it is still a top priority to make sure the guy makes or has the potential to make good money. So whenever there is a possibility of a potential groom, parents and in some cases girls themselves don’t hesitate to get married before finishing their degrees.
There is couple of reasons that we can think of that works behind this mentality:
1. Financial security is not good enough in our society for a woman to live by herself. The society still does not accept the fact very well that a women may live a decent life on her ownÂ and not get married.Â Have you noticed, almost no landlord in Bangladesh rents out (apt/house) to a single woman (who never married before)? She has to stay either with the immediate family, in a working women’s hostel or with some close relative.
This might be one of the biggest reasons parents still are concerned that they should make sure their daughters are in “good” hands.
2. Ideally a person should be able to graduate by the age of 22 (18 years for HSC+ 4 year for undergrad degree), in reality a person becomes 26-28 years old when he/she comes out of that program. Thanks to our session jams and student politics in the public universities!
While a young woman waited to get the undergrad degree, the biological clock did not wait, it kept on ticking. Any knowledgeable person in women’s reproductive health knows there is only a specific period with a number of years when there are higher chances to conceive. So if someone wants to have babies in their lives they would not wait too long to get married. (Just for completeness’ sake, similar fact applies for men’s reproductive health as well; however, it is outside the scope of this article.)
Now let’s see, If a woman want both a family and a career then what are the options? Is it even possible to have both?
I believe yes, it is possible. But be advised that it is not something that will happen automatically. From early age you need to set your priorities. Even when you are 18 years old you are grown up enough to think about your future path.
First of all, don’t ruin your higher studies by falling in love with the good looking guy across the street. Be open to girls and boys alike. By open I mean treat the boys as friends as you would to a nice girl. Itâ€™s okay to like someone but don’t get too carried away with it. Prepare yourself for your university admission. After you are in a university, you will have boys as your class mates, study partners etc. You will learn how it is to work with them. You will learn how to see good things in people when you get a chance to interact with them through your academic programs. Be open and respectful. It is not a good idea to keep aloof from boys and to make friends with girls only. When you respect people for their quality you will earn respect from them as well. In Bangladesh, for most of the people universities are the first place where they get to mix with people of the opposite sex. If you are not careful about your and other’s limits that might get harmful as well.
Anyway, as you are heading towards your graduation, you will get a fair knowledge about the actual qualities in people including boys other than their look or the potential to make money. If you learn this lesson well it won’t be too difficult for you to find a quality person as your life partner (sometimes with some help from the parents, friend and/or other family members) as well as complete your graduation without going to a gambling like route of our traditional arranged marriage system.
As I say this, it is very possible that you won’t find a person as quickly as your other girlfriends are getting a husband or a boyfriend. Don’t get disheartened. If you want to architect your own life you have to take some risk. That is okay as long as you do things you believe in. When you do things just because that will make you like a cool girl or a good girl, it is much harder for you to continue on that when something goes wrong. In those cases people tend to accuse others without really trying to solve the issue.
So girls, believe in yourself, be open and respectful to others, look for quality, and be ready to take a calculated risk. Or, no one will be able to stand behind you. There is no cure all solution for one’s life, different ways work for different people as long as one knows what his/her goal is.
It is hard to go against the family the society and most importantly to loose the comfort of being taken care of. But trust me, when you know your intentions are good you know you will overcome all those difficulties — “Deep in your heart do believe that you will overcome some day”.
Chart: The effect of age on fertility