On my twelfth birthday, I sat on the cold ground in a corner of a dark room with my knees drawn up to my chin and my arms wrapped around them as the tears rolled down my dirty cheeks. I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t want to sleep because I was afraid that he would come back and hurt me again. It really hurt down there. Why did he hurt me? Did I do something bad? I can’t tell anyone. He said that no one will believe me. I can’t tell my mother. She will beat me if I tell her that my father hurts me.
Sometimes I want to run away but I don’t know where I could go. Sometimes I wish I was never born. Sometimes I wish I could die.
One day my father got very ill and a week later he died. I wish I could say that I was sad but I wasn’t. I thought to myself, “He will never hurt you again.” My mother didn’t seem sad either. She and my father didn’t love each other. They used to fight a lot. Sometimes he beat her when he was drunk. Now it was just her, my two brothers and me. Life did not get better after my father died. I was still treated badly and beaten. I worked hard while my brothers played. Life was hard and unfair. But what could I do?
Then, one day, three women came to our village. One of them came to our home. She had a kind face. Her name was Sister Hope. She spoke to my mother. She talked about Jesus. I was curious about this Jesus but didn’t want to ask any questions in front of my mother. My mother had her gods so she wasn’t interested in this new God Sister Hope told her about. Sister Hope smiled and left. I was outside doing my chores. She saw me and she came over to me. She smiled and asked me my name. She invited me to walk a little of the way with her.
As we walked, I asked her many questions and she answered them. She told me about the Bridge of Hope Centre. It sounded like a place where I would like to be. It was my chance to leave home, at least for a while. I asked her if she could speak to my mother.
I went to the Bridge of Hope Centre once a day—in the afternoons. The staff was so kind and caring. I was not used to that. I was used to being abused, neglected and mistreated. My father abused me since I was five years old. My mother never loved me because I am a girl. She loved my two brothers. Sometimes I wished that I were a boy so that my mother would love me and my father wouldn’t hurt me.
It was not easy at first. I was not doing well in my studies. I was still hurting inside. Sometimes I found it hard to concentrate but Rashmi who taught me was very patient with me. One day, she gently asked me to share my story with her. I found it hard to talk about it so I drew pictures. When she saw the drawings, she looked really sad. I could see the tears in her eyes. That surprised me. No one had ever cried for me before. No one had ever felt sorry for me. When I was at home, I was all alone. I had no one to share my pain with. No one cared. No one asked me anything. I didn’t matter to them. But here, I did.
After she put the drawings aside, Rashmi reached out and held my hands. She looked me straight in my face and said, “I’m so sorry that you went through such pain but I want you to know that you have a Father who loves you. He saw you suffering and that is why He sent me to you. He loves you with an everlasting love. He knew you before you were even born. He knows that you are still in pain and wants and comfort you. He wants to pour out His love on you if you will let Him.”
When I heard that I had another Father who loved me and wanted to take care of me, I began to cry. I cried for a while. Rashmi sat there, holding my hands. Then, I stopped crying and felt better. The heavy feeling that I had was not there anymore. I felt God’s love fill me. It felt warm. That is the moment when I gave my heart to God. My work began to improve.
Rashmi taught me from the Bible. I learned more about God and how much He loved me. I learned that He gave His Son, Jesus so that I could have eternal life. I had a Father who wanted what was best for me and who wanted to give me everything I needed. He would never hurt, mistreat or neglect me. He promised that He would always be there, watching over me and protecting me. He was the father and mother I never had.
Jesus became my Friend. He filled me with a peace that I never had. He is always there. When I read about how kind He was to the Samaritan woman, I knew that He would be kind to me too even though I am a girl. I knew that Jesus didn’t love me less because I am a girl. He had friends who were women. He didn’t reject women and I knew that He wouldn’t reject me.
My mother noticed the changes in me. I was no longer sad. I was singing as I did my chores. I tried to tell her about Jesus but she didn’t want to hear about it. She even said to me, “If I hear another word about this Jesus of yours, I will stop you from going back to the centre.” I didn’t talk to her about Jesus after that but for weeks I prayed every night that she would want to know about Him. Weeks went by and then one morning she came to me. She looked scared. “I had a dream last night,” she said. “I was at the river doing laundry when I saw a bright light around me. Out of the light I heard a voice say to me, ‘forsake your gods and follow Me.’ I was afraid but the voice sounded kind so I asked, ‘who are You?’ The voice said, ‘I am Jesus.’ Then He told me again to forsake my gods and follow Him. Tell me about this Jesus.”
I was so surprised that I didn’t know what to say at first. God had answered my prayers. Jesus had revealed Himself to my mother. I told her all that I knew about Jesus. Then Sister Mary came to study the Bible with her. My mother accepted Jesus and our lives have changed. We get along better now.
Now I am 15 years old. I have been going to the centre for three years. I love it here. I want to be a teacher so that I could tell other girls about Jesus. I want to tell them that it doesn’t matter that they are girls. Jesus loves them.
This story is fictitious but it is the reality for many girls in South Asia. Many are abused, neglected, mistreated and unloved simply because they are girls. Some run away from home and end up on the streets where they end up begging, forced into child labor, exploited or trafficked or some of them end up in a Gospel for Asia’s Children’s home.
From the time they are born, they are mistreated, solely because they are girls. A girl cannot carry on the family name nor aptly provide for her parents when they get old. Additionally, her parents will likely have to go into debt to pay her marriage dowry. Because of this, she is seen as a burden to her family and not a blessing – Gospel for Asia.
Thankfully, some girls who still live at home like the one in this story are invited to the Bridge of Hope Centre while others like Manjulika are placed in Gospel for Asia’s Children’s home. Read her story.
International Day of the Girl is a global and annual event initiated by the United Nations to raise awareness of the plight girls around the world. This year’s theme is “The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030.”
There are nearly 600 million girls aged 10 to 19 in the world today, each with limitless individual potential, however they are disappearing from public awareness and the international development agenda. Between inequities in secondary education to protection issues, adolescent girls are uniquely impacted and should benefit from targeted investments and programmes that address their distinct needs. Investing in adolescent girls can have a formidable ripple effect to create a better world by 2030. On this International Day of the Girl, join us in highlighting the unique challenges and potential of adolescent girls – UNICEF.
This is our opportunity to highlight the needs and rights of girls. Girls face discrimination because of their gender. They face barriers to education, opportunities to make a living, child-marriages and poverty. The sad reality is that when we invest in girls, “we create a brighter and safer future for everyone. When girls are educated, healthy and informed, they are able to lift themselves, their children and communities out of poverty” (Because I Am a Girl). Girls matter! They should be celebrated, empowered and encouraged not abused, misused, neglected or exploited. Invest in a girl today!
There are girls out there who don’t know that there is a God who created them in His image and that they are precious in His sight. He rejoiced when they were born. Pray that He will send missionaries to their homes and rescue them from their private hell. Pray that boys and girls will find refuge at Gospel for Asia supported Children’s homes. Help programs like Bridge of Hope, a children’s program, where they help with the children’s education, provide them with food, medical care, tutoring, clothing, and show them the love of Christ. Pray that many of these girls and their families will be led to Christ who has the power to “give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death–to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Galatians 1:4).
Celebrate the power and potential of girls!