The Optimist Citizen

These 2 Girls from a suppressed community are challenging the suppression through Education


Coming from a community that offers nothing to girls except resistance and discrimination, life was never easy for Sahiba and Khushboo.  These two students of 12th class were even deprived of their basic right to education at different points in their lives. Sahiba had her studies cut short after class 10th because her father found it a waste of time and refused to pay for the fees. It was only because of her mother persuasion that finally led to financial support from her father. Khushboo has a similar story to share. Being born and bound to a family whose mentality mirrored the difficulties of girls in their community, Khushboo had to drop out of school in class 2nd. After a difficult period of 2 years, her mother found it smart to admit her into a government school.  Here the experiences deteriorated from worse to the worst. The teachers seldom showed their faces to teach and the students were regularly made to clean the premises during school hours. After having studied till class 5th, her mother told her she couldn’t afford her education anymore. It was a stroke of luck that then she came in touch with Naish Hasam who worked in an organization called ‘Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan’. The organization helped her realize her potential and showed her new avenues through education.

In her own space with similar conditions, Sahiba started working with YES (Yeh Ek Soch) Foundation shortly after being promoted into class 11th .It was here when she won the Girl Icon Award by Milaan and so did Khushboo. And thus, life played a simple game which started a friendship destined to last forever. They realized that they had similar concerns. Each was disturbed by the status of women in their community, the discrimination that they faced and the hurdles erected in the course of their education and liberty.

Through Milaan, they were nominated for unManifesto which was a nationwide campaign initiated by CYC- PRAVAH and supported by UNFPA in the year 2014 and was run for a period of 3 months in 2015. With the objective of engaging youth participation in the political process, bringing social inclusion and effectively involving government bodies for a change, this campaign ran across 20 states and Union Territories of the country.  The program brought their unyielding passion towards educating women got a sincere forum and they witnessed an efficient channelization of their demands towards the government.

Sahiba and Khushboo during the UnManifesto Event in Delhi
Sahiba and Khushboo during the UnManifesto Event in Delhi

Since then the two have met and held meetings with numerous public representatives while also individually searching solutions in their communities. The met Akhilesh Yadav, Chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and Juhi Singh, president of ‘Baal Sanrakshan Aayog’ who showed empathy towards their issues and pledged to work together on them. Also, the director of Mahila Aayog has shown a keen interest in their work. Moreover, their suggestion of random checks and inspections at government schools have received widespread appreciation and will soon be put into action.

Sahiba and Khushboo belong to areas where the mindset of people is as narrow as the distance between two houses. A lot of mistrust and misconceptions probe their brains regarding giving women rights to education and liberty. Families are more influenced by what neighbours have got to say about their girl than the girl herself. The two girls always knew how it felt to be deprived of education. They also saw extreme gender discrimination all around. So today, they are working not only to bring more girls into the spectrum of education but also trying to solve the other problems associated. They have made groups each of girls and women where they conduct meetings to listen to their problems. They spread awareness about physical and sexual health of the ladies while also encouraging them to talk openly about any sort of problems they might have.

“The problems started at my place and so did change”, says Sahiba. The girls have seen immense change in the mindset of their families and members of their community. People back there actually respect them now for all the efforts. Parents have started to send their girls to study. Girls do approach them to talk about their problems without any hesitation.

UnManifesto has been of huge help in being the bridge between a discriminated sector and the government. It has instilled an immense sense of pride and confidence into two young girls working relentlessly for a bigger change to save thousands of lives.

Story by : Disha Malviya

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