I grew up seeing my elder sister struggle for her education. As a girl, she was burdened with household responsibilities and frequently discouraged from pursuing education. However, she had a will of steel and didn’t give up. It is because of her hard work I could study and follow the path to my dreams. Being a student of journalism, I aspired to engage in fieldwork and collect as many stories as possible. So when the team of Be a Jagrik visited our college and talked about their upcoming program, I was instantly intrigued. My happiness knew no bounds when a childhood friend of mine, Jyoti, agreed to become my partner in the journey of Jabardast Jagrik. We sought to raise our voices against the patriarchal construct of the Khargapur community in Lucknow. To tell people how education can change their lives for the better!
On our first day in the community, we conducted a general survey to gauge the existing awareness of girls’ education. Sadly, it was fairly low. When our meetups saw barely any attendance, we decided to go door to door and talk to girls and women. I vividly remember my first encounter with a family where girls stopped attending schools due to lockdown. However, their brothers were happily studying despite financial constraints. After prodding their mother further, I discovered that girls were kept home to do household chores. Her argument was if they send their daughters to school, who would carry out other duties? That struck me as to why the onus was on a girl and not the boy! But sparing debate on this critical issue, I tried explaining to her that a girl can manage both education and household duties with ease. You just have to give her one chance. I was happy to note that she was convinced after this and allowed her girls to attend our sessions.
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More such encounters followed in the due course of time that made me think about the necessity of spreading awareness. I believe that girl education can fill a lot of gaps including child marriage, sexual abuse, gender-based violence, etc. Only if girls are educated, they would know their rights and recognize their potential to do better with their lives. It is with the education they would spread their wings and fly – to achieve their teeny tiny dreams and soar above the limits of the sky!
Initially, it was extremely difficult to communicate with girls. Their families were reluctant to talk because they believed that educating girls was a waste of time and energy. We had to do something to get past these regressive thoughts eating away the potential progress of society. We teamed up with another group of jagriks to reach out to girls and make them talk freely. After they became comfortable, we conducted a host of general sessions with them and their parents to talk about the importance of literacy in everyday life. We also informed them about the available government schemes to encourage them to let their daughters study freely. I am ever so grateful to the ASHA workers and the Gram Pradhan who helped us in reaching out to more families and spread our message of education.
Although the journey of Phase 2 has come to an end, we are still on our mission to make more girls study and live a better life. I want to be a medium of making more people understand the need to educate girls. I want my education to empower others and create a positive impact. It’s about time we let go of our preconceived notions to lead society towards a bright future. It’s about time we enable each other to do good work and bring a collective change.
Participant, Be a Jagrik Phase 2