One would think that being born and raised as a 90’s child, meant “freedom”. But what exactly does “freedom” mean? To me, freedom means the right to live my life the way I want to, but changing the beliefs of my parents is an entirely different story.

Unfortunately, in our Indian culture, most parents believe that when their daughters complete matric, marriage is the next step.

I had never thought that my parents would ever change their opinion. But, they did, although I was too young to understand. Today, my mum often motivates me by telling me stories I have never heard before.

My “Skollie” is my next-door neighbour. Reshika is the second of four daughters. These girls completed their matric but could not afford the luxury of studying. They started at the bottom of the ladder as packers and casuals.

Reshika had just begun working permanently when she fell pregnant. However, the father of the child wasn’t ready and paid for an abortion. Taking a stand for herself, she decided to keep the baby, which led to domestic violence and her being beaten black and blue. Despite her circumstances she never gave up.

At 24, she started at the bottom of the ladder again, by working as a casual for 5 hours a week. She worked her way up to a permanent part-time casual and then supervisor before reaching the peak of her career as the store’s finance assistant manager.

But, tragedy struck again when her mother fell ill and required all round care. Her sisters took leave and then unpaid leave before one of them was forced to leave work. Reshika left work to care for her ailing mother. After the death of her mother, in 2010, at the ripe age of 32, Reshika started college.

After obtaining a certificate for a short course to become an administrative assistant, she went on to register for a diploma in events management.

Reshika has taught my parents and me that perseverance and hard work always pays off. She takes care of an entire house and has raised an intelligent, responsible son, as well as taking care of her 74-year-old dad. Despite all of this she still finds time to do charity work.

She has sacrificed her time to help a neighbour in need when her own children neglected her, but has never once neglected her own duties as a daughter and as a mother. My mother has watched her struggles and has supported my decision to remain single until I am ready for the commitment of marriage. My parents have supported me in every decision that I made, including giving me the opportunity to study.

Although I do not work permanently, I have decided to be my own boss. I have chosen the field of beauty and hair care as my chosen profession. I currently do tinting as well as washing and setting, but I am still mastering the craft of cutting.

Reshika is a successful, single parent who is not only a student, but also a mother and a role model to all the young girls in my neighbourhood. Her son is never left alone as she works from home creating cards and gifts for weddings.

She has overcome her tragedy of domestic violence and turned it into a story that motivates other young girls. Having a child is not the end of your education. You have the key to keep that door open, but only you can close the door of education.