Shanti was married at age 12, but she and her husband are trying to save up some money before having children.
Photo: William A. Ryan/UNFPA
Shanti, 16, has lived with her husband Ramesh and his family since she was 14. Ramesh, 17, left school after fifth grade and has no job.
“Life is hard, because my husband has no earnings,” Shanti says, and then recounts her normal routine: “Every day I cook the morning meal for my in-laws, feed the livestock, clean out the shed, watch the cattle in the field, cook the afternoon meal and then clean the pots – all by myself.”
Ramesh says it breaks his heart to tell Shanti there is no money when she needs something. “My advice to other young people is to stay in school,” he says. “Don’t get married if you can’t provide for your family.”
Unfortunately, Shanti and Ramesh had no say in whether to marry. Their parents arranged their formal marriage when he was 12 and she was 11.
Shanti gets lonely when Ramesh goes to India for months at a time to do manual labour, leaving her with her in-laws.
“I’m married now; my mother cannot look after me,” she says. “I love my husband and I don’t want him to go away. But we are poor; that’s the reality.”
“I have to bear my fate,” Shanti adds. “But I’ve told my parents: please let my sisters stay in school.”