This teenager, a resident of the economically backward pockets of the Dum Dum area in Kolkata, has hardly had a regular life. She lives with her father and step mother. Her father is a menial labour who works in a marble shop. She has two elder sisters who got married very early; one of them in fact was a child bride.
Since Swapna’s mother’s death, their family had become very dysfunctional. Her father remarried and their step-mother is only 25 years of age. One would definitely feel the tension in the family. The step mother did not foster a healthy relationship with the girls and even the father used to verbally abuse them as he was instigated. There came a time when the middle sister was sent to Murshidabad to stay with her aunt. Practically the parents wanted to renounce the responsibility. Once the eldest daughter got married off, the family found a ‘suitable man’ for the other daughter and was called back. He was 36 years old while Swapna’s middle sister was only 17 and had put her foot down. Eventually she eloped with a neighbour. Swapna knew it will be her turn next.
One thing Swapna did not give up was being a regular at the drop-in centre run by CRY supported project Praajak. There, the workers could sense the lack of discipline at her home-front which reflected on herself. There was hardly any personal hygiene. Team Praajak understood that change could be brought in through a process of ‘psycho-social support programme’. After concerted engagement at the drop-in centre on life skills and thematic sessions, change began to take place. Her ‘self image’ and leadership skills started building up. She has now emerged as a peer leader and also, a member of the Ward Level Child Protection Committee (WLCPC).
Swapna is now empowered to take sessions and place her views logically. In the WLCPC training, she discussed about the Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) and the vulnerability of children having street connectedness. Swapna is now in class X in a government school in Dum Dum. She dreams of either being a Social Worker or a teacher. She strongly feels gender justice is an area she would like to promote because she feels girls are discriminated and robbed off opportunities.
Visit www.cry.org today, and you could make life easier for children like Swapna, for whom school is the game changer!