Indo-Caribbean Collegiate Women Talk Marriage

By: Kamelia Kilawan
Article Originally Published in The West Indian Newspaper February 16, 2013

Growing up is hard to do as an Indo-Caribbean young woman in a city filled with exciting career prospects and a home filled with expectations to live up to. You must study yuh books, do da right ting, and geh married.

Indo-Caribbean young women are receiving a college education, taking on full course loads, and making career choices that may not have even been options for their parents. But when it comes to marriage, parental acceptance becomes a tricky factor in the decision. This Valentine’s Day, I interviewed some of my friends and found a trend that more Indo-Caribbean college educated young women are speaking out about their parents influencing who they choose to marry and how difficult it is to suit their expectations.

Amanda Ramkissoon, a 21 year-old college student said there is a lot of uncertainty whether or not your family will accept whom ever you choose to marry.

“My parent’s acceptance is important though they grew up in a different time and are very traditional,” she said pointing out that as immigrants of another country her parents have worked hard for her education and that she feels she should at least choose a life partner that suits their expectations of being vegetarian, Hindu, and financially-stable though she would just like him to be “respectful and intelligent.”

Ramkissoon is of Trinidadian and Guyanese descent and grew up in Richmond Hill, Queens. She is in her senior year at Baruch College and holds a grade point average threading the path of Magna Cum Laude.

She has dated in college and had a high school boyfriend that she kept a secret from her parents for two years but has not found someone she believes to be a life partner who shares the values of her and her parents.

Ramkissoon said she would consider if her parents gave her suggestions of who to marry. “They know what they’re looking for and I think that saves a lot of time in terms of me wandering around hoping to find someone and trying to build a connection,” she said in an interview commenting that it is difficult to find the one in a city with so many options.

Farzana Ghanie said if you find someone your parents accept it makes the life after the marriage a lot easier even though it may take a while to find the right person.

“You don’t want to have to choose between the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with and your family,” Ghanie said.

Ghanie, 21, who grew up in Queens Village, works as a student leader in three college departments advising fellow students while pursuing a double-major in Communications and Psychology. She mentioned how difficult the search to find a life partner is while balancing a hectic schedule.

“It’s even harder nowadays with school and work and everything else in between,” she said noting that she will not bring a potential partner home until she is absolutely sure her parents would approve.

But there is a significant challenge for some Indo-Caribbean girls growing up in the city and are instructed by their parents to remain completely immersed in their studies in high school and college—later facing the pressure to find a life partner.

Radha Singh, 26, who is studying acting education at New York University commented on the struggles faced by many young women to follow the conflicting expectations of their parents.

“Indo-Caribbean girls are expected to only focus on their education without the distraction of any male companions, however, once they reach a their late teens, they are suddenly pressured by their elders to find a husband. In this case, there is no actual time for these girls to find anyone because the length of time to do so was never permitted by their parents,” she said.

Singh said she will not marry until she finds someone who she falls in love with but she noted an additional challenge that many men are falling behind in terms of their education level.

According to 2010 Census Bureau data, nation wide women are earning more bachelor degrees than men. The widest gap in education levels exists among young people between the ages of 25 and 30, where 36 percent of women in this range hold bachelor’s degrees or higher, compared to only 28 percent of men.

But in an analysis of 2010 Census Bureau data conducted by Philip Cohen a sociologist at the University of Maryland, once married women have children they fall behind in earnings compared to their husbands. According to Cohen, in only 20 percent of all married families does the wife earn half or more of all family income and in 35 percent of marriages, the wife earns less than 10 percent.

For many women the decision to get married is never a simple choice. Ramkissoon said that she would not mind getting married and making less money because she would appreciate being a Mother while having the support of a husband.

Although she pointed out in all aspects of marriage from tying the knot to having a family, “It’s not just thinking about your self.”