It’s Father’s Day today and I’m thinking about my father, my hero.
When I was sixteen most of my friends were married and had children. My father didn’t want that for me. You see, my father knows what it’s like to marry young. He never had an opportunity to go school because he had a family to take care of. He worked hard all his life.
Then, Mama died and Papa became a single parent. He wanted my brothers and I to have the opportunities he never did. He didn’t want me to end up like my friends. He was determined that I would break the cycle of poverty by finishing school, marrying when I chose to. He wanted me to have the chance to fulfill my dreams. He was determined to see me graduate and he did. It was a proud moment for both of us. I cried when I went to receive my diploma and afterwards, he and I hugged. I think he was crying too.
Neighbors and friends came to my aunt’s house to celebrate my graduation. My father told them that it was one of the happiest moments in his life. I will never forget what he said to me that night before I went to bed. We were sitting on the sofa and he looked at me and said, “From the time you were a little girl, I saw that you wanted to learn so I made up my mind that I was going to pour all my efforts in to supporting you. You have a right to a good life and to make your own money. I don’t want you to have to beg for food. I want you to be able to afford things like soap and clothes.”
“Oh, Papa,” I cried and I hugged him tightly, tears running down my cheeks. My heart was bursting with love for him. He was my hero. “I promise I will make you proud.”
He chuckled. “You already have.”
I remember the day when I told him that I had gotten accepted to Oxford University. I was nervous and excited when I saw the envelope. I ripped it open and eagerly read it. I rushed into the kitchen where he was fixing the door and I shoved the letter at him. “Read it, Papa.”
He did and I saw him smile. When he looked at me, I could see that there were tears in his eyes. And the pride I saw on his dear face warmed my heart. “Congratulations, Binah,” he said, handing the letter back to me.
I hugged him. “I’m going to miss you, Papa,” I saw when we drew apart. It was the first time in my life that I was going to be separated from him. I had never been away from home. London seemed so far away.
“Don’t worry about the distance,” he said. “We’ll be close in our thoughts and hearts.”
I smiled. “I’ll write and call you every week,” I promised.
It was the hardest thing for me to leave my Dad. I couldn’t stop crying on the day when I was leaving. I hugged him tightly for a long time. I begged my brothers to take care of him. My aunt promised that she would keep an eye on him.
This was five years ago. I’m twenty-one now. Sadly, my father passed last year. I thought of him when I graduated from Oxford earlier this month. He would have been so thrilled. I could just hear him telling everyone back in our village that his had graduated from Oxford. I’m happy that I made him proud. I will always be indebted to him for supporting and believing in me. Together we have broken the cycle of child marriage and now I can enjoy the future he has made possible for me.
Rest in peace, Papa.
This fictional story was inspired by a true story of a man named Peter who lives with his daughter, Annete in rural Uganda. When he understood that through education Annete can have a better life, he became determined to see her graduate and reach her full potential.
This Father’s Day, if you would like to help daughters and their parents break the cycle of child marriage and support girls like Annete who want to pursue their dreams, please make a donation.
Give a girl the opportunity to shine. Give her the gift of education.