In the entire village of Bansipur (Munger, Bihar), there is only one college-goer. Her name is Julie Kumari.
If that fact has surprised you, what will add to it is that this is a village of 'Musahars' or rat catchers, and the college is situated at a distance of two hours from the village.
And there's more to come.
Julie was studying in Class IX when her parents decided to marry her off...and this was the norm in the village. But she was busy dreaming of becoming a doctor, and nothing else could come in the way. Such resistance was unheard of in this extremely poor and backward village of Bihar. And Julie knew, it would be difficult for her to fight the battle alone.
CRY supported project DishaVihar, had, in the meanwhile, initiated a children's group in the village called the Munna - MunniManch. They extended support by getting the staff of DishaVihar involved. A series of discussions followed, and the wedding was finally called off.
Julie was not prepared for what followed. All her relatives and the entire village demanded answers from her parents as to why they went against the tide. The person who single handedly answered every question, and faced every hindrance was Julie's mother. Herself an ASHA worker today, Julie's mother had studied till class X before she was married off. She stood like a pillar for Julie and ensured that Julie not only completed her Higher Secondary but also went to college.
As her brother today accompanies her to college every day because it's a long way from her house, he is helping her move closer to her dream of becoming a doctor. Because she had dared to dream, today her two other sisters are also continuing with their studies. While one of them is in class IX, the other is in class VII.
Julie has a list of firsts against her name today. It all started because she dared to dream. It was possible because her mother believed in her dream.
Tucked away in one corner of Samastipur, Bihar, is a hamlet called Balbhadrapur, where slowly and silently, a sixteen year old is changing the lives of her peers. PinkyKumari, determined to make sure that every single child in her village goes to school, runs a Retention Centre in her village, with help from her siblings and the other community members.
Pinky is strongly against children dropping out of school, be it on account of child marriage or child labour. She leaves no stone unturned to persuade parents and doesn't stop till she gets children back to school. "I will not give up my studies, and I won't let any child in my village dropout of school," she says. Pinky has three brothers and one more sister and is the second child to her parents. Her father works as a daily wage earner in Delhi, and so does her elder brother.
The conviction in Pinky's voice, when she talks about her mission to ensure that the children in her village get access to their right to education, is thought-provoking. And the bigger picture comes to view when one speaks to her mother, Sunita Devi.
Married at the age of ten, Sunita Devi bore her first child at the age of fourteen. Not only that, acute poverty drove her to send her first born child to work when he was only ten years old. Vijay went to work as a shoemaker in Kolkata after studying up to the Fifth standard. After working there for five years, he moved to work as a daily labourer in Delhi with his father.
So when Pinky joined the Children's Group created in this village by the staff of CRY supported project JawharJyoti Bal Vikas Kendra, and came back to tell Sunita Devi about all the ill-effects of child labour and child marriage, she immediately connected to it. Unlike other parents who questioned the logic, she not only stood by Pinky's decision to run this Retention Centre, but also plays an active role to counsel parents whose children have dropped out of school. "I am a victim of child marriage because we didn't even know what it is all about. Pinky's elder brother is a victim of child labour. And now I realise, education is the only way out of this vicious cycle," says a determined Sunita Devi.
SaradinduBandyopadhyay, who heads the operations of CRY in the state of Bihar shares, "CRY works towards eliminating the root causes like access to schools, child labour, gender discrimination, no toilets for girls, child marriage etc. Which create barriers to education that children have to face. Unless these underlying causes are dealt with, the situation for children will not change. Along with our partner organisations, we are working at the grassroots level to make sure that children do not have to face these barriers and can fully exercise their right to education."
"Education is one of the main agents of change. When a child is able to go to school today, he or she sets off a cycle of positive change. An educated child stays away from early marriage, avoids exploitation and becomes strong and independent. Our constant endeavour at CRY is to get this message across to communities so that they get equally involved in ensuring that their children go to school, stay in school and discover their full potential," says AtindraNath Das, Director, Eastern Region, CRY - Child Rights and You.
Society for Rural Agriculturalists and Mass Awareness (SRAMA) from Andhra Pradesh is a CRY-supported project. It tells the story of a young girl who fought against insurmountable odds to pursue her higher education.
N. Samyuktha, was from a poor family from Alamuru Mandal in East Godavari district. She faced challenges similar to what millions her age, faced on a daily basis. Her father, a construction labourer, kept travelling between states in search of work. Her mother was deaf and suffered from a chronic illness, rendering her incapable of contributing to the household income. This dire situation led Samyuktha's aunt and grandmother to take up the responsibility of her education till Class 8.
In order to help with the situation, SRAMA took the initiative to assist Samyuktha in pursuing her higher education. Despite various familial obstacles, Samyuktha completed Class 9 and with the motivation of SRAMA, got accepted into Class 10. Although she faced obstacles every step of the way, she did well in her studies.
Samyuktha became a member of the children's collective by SRAMA to inspire more children to join school. She also actively participated in all their activities. The children's collective is a safe and open platform for kids in the village. It encourages them to come and voice out their opinions and thoughts about various issues. It also urges them to discuss their dreams and aspirations. Being a natural leader, Samyuktha took up the responsibility of facilitating meaningful discussions among the members. The primary focus of these discussions were child right issues.
She participated in special classes, which helped her further understand different subjects. With the help of these classes, her preparation for Class 10 examinations was excellent, and she achieved a brilliant 9.5 GPA in the finals.
SRAMA offers career guidance to students interested in pursuing higher education to motivate them to study further. Its members helped Samyuktha realize her interest in the field of science, and inspired her to join the Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT). Thanks to her high GPA in the Class 10 examinations, she secured a seat in the computer engineering course at IIIT, Nuzvid, Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh, in July 2016.
Her ambition is to become a successful computer engineer.
Living in India as a woman, unfortunately, comes with it its share of problems. Which is significantly higher in the more rural parts of the country. Women are often subject to discrimination and bias on the basis of gender and caste. This is one such story.
Sathya was born in Tirunelveli, a small district in Tamil Nadu. She not only comes from a rural community, but was born into a society governed by the highly-unjust caste system. She aspired to be a civil-engineer, growing up in an orthodox society where it was almost unheard of. Growing up in an unfriendly environment, individuals like her were denied the most basic rights. Like education, healthcare and sanitation. Most women in the community turned to rolling beedis as their source of income.
For Sathya, access to education was difficult. The nearest schools were more than 5-12 km away. With just a single government bus that never followed a time schedule as the means for commuting. In a desperate attempt to get an education, Sathya would commute on a private bus that would charge her heavily. Numerous students dropped out of school because of the inconvenience.
Sathya, being a bright student, scored 83% in her 12th board exams. With the help of Human Rights Education and Protection Council and CRY, she began studying engineering in a government college for free. Motivated by HREPC, Sathya was encouraged to participate in extra-curricular activities and speak up regarding any issues she was facing.
Sathya is but one of the many girls who were given the chance to rise up to societal challenges and convert their dreams into reality. Indrani, another girl from the district, fulfilled her dreams of completing an MBA course. Muthu Dhanumathi, with the support of CRY and the HREPC community organisers has started a career as an advocate. Muthu is the first woman advocate from her community. Just like Sathya, who is the first civil engineer from hers.
CRY-supported project (Human Rights Education and Protection Council) has helped create a platform for individuals like Sathya to purse and fulfil their dreams. A greater effort has been put into raising awareness about child rights, thereby creating friendly and peaceful living environments for Sathya, her family, and many others bound by society's caste-based discrimination.Click here to watch the video
P. Sirisha hails from a village called Dasarigudem. She suffered from a health problem and had to undergo surgery. This led her to fail in her 10th class examination in April 2015.
Staff from a CRY-supported project - Pragathi, helped her get over the disappointment of her failure. They motivated her to prepare for the instant exam in May 2015. Upon failing the exam, for the second time, she wanted to discontinue her studies. But, members of Pragathi counselled and motivated her to appear for the exam the next year. Needless to say, Sirisha passed the exam. Happy with her achievement, she joined the intermediate 1st year (Class 11) in June 2016
K.Archana, comes from a small village in Andhra Pradesh called Vedullacheruvu. Archana had to drop out in the 6th standard as her family decided to move to Tirupathi due to their extremely weak financial condition. Her father was able to find a job as a scavenger there. The fact that they did not own a house added to their problems.
The members of Pragathi, a CRY-supported project decided to help out with the situation. They had a discussion with the village Sarpanch and helped the family apply for a ration card and free housing. They made sure that the family received these benefits as well. Pragathi members also helped Archana's father find a better job as a painter. Archana received free books and and a bag from donors. With the support of the organisation, she was enrolled in school in July 2015. She is now studying in the 8th standard in Zilla Parishad High School at Guthivaripalli village.
Munemma hails from a village in Chitoor district called Ramapuram. She had to drop out of school because of her mother's death due to prolonged illness. Her father became an alcoholic after the unfortunate incident. He would often stay in his brother's house and would ignore Munemma completely.
Members of Pragathi, a CRY-supported project, along with school teachers and other community-based organisation members held various counselling sessions for Munemma's father. This resulted in a change in his behaviour. He started staying at home and taking care of Munemma. As a result, Munemma rejoined school in February 2016. She is now studying in the 8th standard in Zilla Parishad High School at Mallavaram village.
Marthal hails from a Dalit family in the urban slum pockets of Vayasarapadi in Chennai. Her father is a tailor and the only earning member of the family. Her mother looks into household chores. Marthal dropped out of school in Class 8 due to very poor infrastructural facilities and verbal abuse by the teachers. The school didn't have proper, hygienic toilet facilities for girls. Insufficient water supply was another problem. She was mocked by her teacher for living in the slum.
The CRY-supported project Slum Children's Sports Talent Education Society (SCSTEDS) team noticed that Marthal was not going to school. The team members immediately intervened and motivated her to continue her education. The project team members also sensitised her parents to motivate and support Marthal.
Her parents raised the issue of a lack of infrastructural facility and the behaviour of the teacher with the Head Master. Marthal was re-enrolled into the school within a month. Infrastructural facilities like toilet facilities were sanctioned. She was inducted into sports where she regained her spirit for learning and motivation towards education.
With constant follow-ups & motivation, she excelled both in studies and football. She scored extremely well in her 12thboard exams and also represented SCSTEDS in various football matches.