A Life Defined, but Not by Dowry: A Young Women Proves She’s No One’s Property, Then Sets Out to Buy Her Own

A Life Defined, but Not by Dowry: A Young Women Proves She’s No One’s Property, Then Sets Out to Buy Her Own

Multimedia from this Release

Shanaz is focused on a future that she envisioned for herself – not one projected by others. ©2014 Children International

Monday, September 29, 2014 - 8:20am

CAMPAIGN: Empowering Girls

CONTENT: Article

By Damon Guinn

A disturbing memory haunts 27-year-old Shanaz when she compares herself to other young women in her community. She pictures her cousin, just 16 years old. One moment her face is aglow with love. Then the young woman's expression changes from hope to horror as flames shoot out from a kerosene stove. Shanaz hears her cousin's final gasps of air as she helplessly attempts to flee the claustrophobic home that had been locked from the outside.

"It was a dowry death," Shanaz explains. Her cousin's parents couldn't afford to provide the customary gift of money or property that is passed to the groom's family at the time of the wedding. "His family didn't accept her," she says, "and she was burned to death."

Stories like that – shocking to most – aren't unusual in India. A woman dies from a dowry-related death every hour, according to the country's National Crime Records Bureau. Those who aren't murdered or driven to suicide might be starved, beaten or locked inside the family's home.

"I've always observed in the community that girls would get married by the time they were 15, then have no say or control over their lives … have kids, get beaten by their husbands …." Shanaz shares.

"I wanted to be in control of my life. And this came about through the various trainings I received … I realized that I had the leadership qualities in me. So, why should I let someone else take control of my life?"

To continue reading this article, please view it on the eNews section of our website.

Reporting assistance by Nivedita Moitra. Photos by Andrea Waters.

Learn more about how Children International is empowering girls.

About Children International

Children International prepares children and youth to escape the traps of poverty by supporting their critical needs, building resilience, and engaging them in transformative activities. Children International accomplishes this by providing crucial benefits and compassionate care through easily accessible, modern community centers. Children International’s presence, programs and supporters have a positive impact on children, youth, families and communities; provide protection; encourage self-sufficiency; and serve as catalysts for change.

For more information about Children International, visit www.children.org.

Follow Children International on Facebook and Twitter.


Brittany Gelbach
+1 (816) 943-3832