Stories of Girls’ Resistance
Mamta Chand, Fiji


“My first form of resistance was saying no to arranged marriage. Every single time I agreed for a guy to come see me, it was only because I did not want my parents to look bad in front of my extended family. I did not want my extended family to give crap to my Mummy and Papa or say bad things to them. If people say bad things to me, I’m like “yeah fuck off”, but if anyone says bad things to them, I can’t take it. So, it was just because of them I did it. But my parents never pressured me into anything. Then it came to a point in time that I was like “this is not right…it’s just so fucked up”, and I started saying “no”. Family members would still call, and I would say, “no, I don’t want it. Stop this. No more”. So, my parents started saying “no” to family members wanting to bring guys to see me for proposals. I think that was one of the biggest “push back or resistance” I ever did in my life. I put my foot down. Stop marrying me off!”

Mamta’s Story

My first form of resistance was saying no to arranged marriage. I put my foot down. Family members would still call, and I would say, “no, I don’t want it. Stop this. No more. Stop marrying me off!” As an only child, Mamta grew up in a loving and supportive home where she was encouraged to express herself freely. She shares that she never really encountered any form of control or discrimination from her parents and could be herself. It was only when she was in her early 20s that “all the drama” of marriage began. Both, her parents and her, were being pressured by extended members of the family to consider marriage proposals from Fiji and the diaspora. She would only allow these visits to happen from the “boy’s family” to protect her parents. “I did not want anyone to say anything negative against my parents.” She recalls the demeaning nature of these visits where she would be appraised from head to toe, like a “piece of meat.” Her physical attributes – from her skin colour, her height and weight – would be discussed right in front of her. She never met the desired criteria from the visiting family. “I was not considered good enough to be a wife, which was a blessing in disguise, really…to be rejected.” After she said “no more” to her parents, and they acquiesced and communicated to families, Mamta felt free. She spent the next 15 years finding herself and building a life of her own. The traditional ‘study-job-marriage-kids’ path was not for her. After high school, she worked in different places before arriving at a women’s rights NGO that changed her life. She was accepted into their young women’s leadership and empowerment programme where she learned about feminism, women’s rights – especially young women’s rights, human rights, sexual reproductive health and rights, intersectionality, economic empowerment, women in leadership, and so much more. The empowerment programme provided Mamta with the gender lens she needed to analyze the world around her. Over the years, she worked in various human rights-based agencies and celebrated a career achievement by finally leading the very young women’s empowerment programme she was once a graduate of. Today she is an inspiration to many young women who want to live life on their own terms. “I am the happiest I have ever been. I make my own choices. I am single and carefree. Of course, I have responsibilities like anyone else, but they are ones I took on. I wouldn’t change anything in my life because it’s my life.