As I have every August in recent years, I am busy preparing my children to return to school. While I am excited for them to continue learning and growing, I can’t help but think about the millions of children—especially girls—in other parts of the world who are denied the right to an education. Tragically, many are forced to marry at a young age, confined to a life of arduous household work and caring for babies of their own.
In the next year alone, about 15 million girls will be married before they turn 18. These girls often have little say in the matter, and they face family pressure to drop out of school. In fact, that’s exactly what happened to my grandmother, Beatrice. Her story is a huge part of why I’m so proud to serve on the board of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), an organization that supports more than 50 grassroots organizations in India working to advance the rights of girls.
Bee—whose name I would one day inherit, albeit with a different spelling—grew up in Sri Lanka. As I learned, Bee’s nose was always in a book, and she loved school. By the time she was 17, all of Bee’s teachers knew she was smart. They encouraged her to become a teacher, too, as it was one of the few careers open to women in Sri Lanka at the time. Bee was excited about her future.