Saturday, August 19, 2023

Shaping her own destiny: Rajmani poses from the fields of Bihar to the halls of APU, Bhopal

In Farda village, like in many other places in Munger, Bihar, a common issue exists. Many girls can't continue their schooling as expected and leave early. This happens because they're expected to manage household tasks, care for younger siblings, and follow a predetermined path of marrying and starting families at a young age, often before they even legally can. They have little time for school and lose interest in studying. There are no role models for them, and they lack the voice and choice to make decisions. Rajmani's life was no exception; after her 12th exams, she lacked aspirations, awaiting parental decisions, likely regarding her marriage. 

Partnering with Jeevika in 2019, i-Saksham identified potential young girls and women in remote Bihar districts, fostering them into change leaders through the 2-year-long Edu-leaders’ fellowship. Rajmani was among those who were identified by Jeevika for the i-Saksham edu-leaders cohort of 2019-21. Rajmani initially completed a year of in-person sessions, but when Covid hit, she adapted gracefully even through numerous personal challenges on top of mobility and digital access that were heavily censored or limited for girls. Despite this, Rajmani displayed resilience, venturing outside her comfort zone to support her village during crises, providing relief kits and medicines, building community rapport, and showcasing her determination for the overall well-being of the community. 

Friday, August 4, 2023

"Know Yourself, Change the World" - the golden words Anshu Kumari embraced from a session on "Identity" !


Anshu's story is about her strong determination and leadership in a rural village in Begusarai, Bihar. Despite facing challenges and traditional expectations, she showed great courage in creating her own path. Anshu is the only girl in her village who completed her graduation before marriage, choosing to pursue higher education despite financial difficulties. Her dreams go beyond the usual roles assigned to women in her community. In her recent reflection sharing, she shared about her village, education levels, aspirations of girls and women and her own ambitions. Through her note, one ca understand how- despite negative comments and pressure from villagers who believed she should marry early and focus on household duties, Anshu remained firm in breaking free from gender stereotypes. She didn't want to end up like her mother, who had an education but ended up working in the fields. Instead, she aimed to be recognized and set an example for other girls.

In 2023, Anshu joined the i-Saksham edu-leaders fellowship programme in Begusarai, which opened up new possibilities for her. Here she learned and gained a fresh understanding of her surroundings.

During a session on "Identity," Anshu's thoughts deeply impacted her fellow participants. She came to realize the importance of understanding one's own likes, dislikes, voice, and choices to set clear goals and remain true to oneself. 

Anshu shared, "It became a way of life for all the edu-leaders to appreciate differences and stay true to ourselves."

"पहचान" सत्र में हमारे अनुभव ने हमें हमारी पसंद और नापसंद को समझने में मदद की। हमारी आवाज़ और चुनौती को भी समझने का मौका मिला। हमारे लिए यह जानना महत्वपूर्ण था क्योंकि हमारी पसंदों को समझकर हम स्पष्ट लक्ष्य तय कर सकते हैं। हमारी पसंद दूसरों से अलग हो सकती हैं, और अगर हम समूह के दबाव में आकर अन्यायी काम करते हैं, तो हमारी असली पहचान को नुकसान हो सकता है, जिससे हमारे सफलता में कमी आ सकती है और हमारी आवाज़ और चुनौती का संक्षिप्त होना सकता है।"

[Our experience from the session yesterday on Identity was about understanding our likes and dislikes, including our voice and choice. It was essential for us to know more about ourselves because without knowing our preferences, we cannot set clear goals. Our likes might differ from others, and if we succumb to peer pressure, we may do things that don't align with our true selves, leading to a lack of success and a loss of our voice and choice] writes Anshu in her deep reflection note.

In her village, Anshu recognized the need to challenge harmful beliefs and practices that limit girls' opportunities, such as child marriage and menstrual taboos. Her vision of equality and empowerment resonated deeply with the fellowship, and they pledged to dismantle such customs and foster an inclusive society.

Anshu's leadership traits stand out through her strong determination, dedication to making a difference, and the positive influence she has had in her community in a short time. Her journey from a protected life at home to becoming a source of hope for other girls highlights the power of education and self-awareness to bring about meaningful change.

In the words of Anshu herself, "I aim to challenge harmful practices and beliefs, proving that girls are no less than boys in any aspect and to be the one people give an example of how a girl should be like - audacious, kind and ambitious despite all barriers."

While she was initially disregarded as a naive village girl by teachers and elders there, to be even being placed in the school to assist in teaching as part of her fellowship, she persisted and applied her fellowship learning in the classrooms. Her dedication and passion for education transformed the attitudes of her critics, who now respect her work in the school and community.

Anshu knows how fortunate she is to have her family's backing in her journey of learning, exploring, and growing as a person. Unlike many of her friends, her family doesn't rush to marry her off. Anshu strongly believes that proving the importance of education, freedom, and family support to the community and society around her is so crucial. This belief fuels her determination to make a positive impact and inspire other families with daughters to stand against societal pressures. She wants to influence parental mindsets and create a significant change in the lives of countless girls who face early school dropouts due to early marriages, and other societal expectations from girls. Her reflection reminds us that real leaders emerge when they bravely challenge the status quo and work towards a better future.

Anshu Kumari is from Begusarai Bihar, an Edu-leader from the 10th Cohort (2023) undergoing the i-Saksham edu-leaders' fellowship programme.