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Tribal Daughters Get Access To Wealth And Health
Ajitha Menon

Neetu’s parents were spending sleepless nights trying to find a way to gather enough cash to replace their thatched roof with an asbestos or aluminium sheet one when the 15-year-old from Jidu Pandra Toli village in Jharkhand offered to pay for it. They simply could not believe that the young girl could raise the Rs 6,000 needed for the roof sheet. However, Neetu not only managed to secure a loan but she also paid it off within six months. Like her Manti Kumari, 18, recently paid for the treatment of her sick mother, Khusboo Kumari, 13, lent her father money to give a monthly installment for his auto-cab while Parvati Bedia, 19, took an education loan for her college admission. In 70 villages of Ranchi and Hazaribagh districts in Jharkhand there are numerous teenage girls who are part of successful micro-credit ventures that give them access to funds as and when a need arises. Of course, greater financial control has given these girls the power to improve their health and nutritional status as well as firmly reject early marriage.

“Things were difficult and I struggled to finish Classes Eleven and Twelve. In fact, I had no money for college admission when the Kishori Mandal provided me a loan of Rs 800.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO713R 1250 words

Gudiya’s Classes Are The Gateway To A Better Life
Anjali Singh

Gudiya grew up in an environment where girls had no hope of ever leading a respectful life – “not just our fathers but our mothers were alcoholics as well. Most youngsters saw no scope in building a future and took to drinking early and aimlessly whiling away their time. Making ends meet was really tough. In fact, just to get a square meal a day my siblings and I had to work hard and make ropes or fishing nets”. Hailing from a small, impoverished and lower caste dominant village of Mallahipurva, located 150 kilometres from Uttar Pradesh's state capital, Lucknow, Gudiya would have simply followed in her mother’s footsteps and remained illiterate, married a drunk and borne lots of children that she would not have been able to support. But fortunately, not only has she managed to build a very different future for herself but she has also ensured that other children in her village do not lead a bleak existence anymore. This very first matriculate of Mallahipurva has brought primary education to the doorstep of her regressive community, changing their collective destiny. Read on to find out how she achieved this once impossible task.

“I was tongue-tied when she gave the SSC [Class 10] certificate in my hand. It was a source of both happiness and apprehension for me. People kept telling me that I was wrong in allowing her to do all this, but my heart said that this was her destiny; she was meant to do this."

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDK822R 1210 words

United States
Find Out What’s “Cool” About The Beijing Platform For Action

In September 1995, women from all around the world came to Beijing for the Fourth World Women’s Conference. Even though I wasn’t born until the next year, this conference certainly influences my life today as I approach womanhood. Not just because my grandmother was there and tells me many stories of the strong, incredible women of courage she met but because, while her stories are great, “Beijing” is not just about what happened in 1995. After all, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action did not just create a set of promises to achieve gender equality but it also put in place a roadmap for how we can make those promises real for women. In fact, they allow us, today, to have a central human rights-based agenda for women – that we can continue to add to – that I can add to. In 2015, we need to think critically about the role we can all play in continuing the work that was done but also how things have changed. While our girlhood, our womanhood, and the feminist cause unite many of us, we cannot assume that any two females face similar challenges or even have the same hopes and aspirations.

“Before Beijing, no one really talked about the differences between being a girl and being a woman – as if my mother, my grandmother, and I all want the same things!”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: USAO928 620 words

Girls Put Their Best Food Forward
Roshin Varghese

When the Mysore-based Zaiba Taj first asked Javeriya to come to the school ground to join in a game of football, the teenager was absolutely alarmed. How could she play with boys? Wouldn’t she make a fool of herself in front of the entire class? And how would her mother react if she found out? As a worried Javeriya told Zaiba that neither would she get the permission to play and nor was she really up for the “challenge”, the feisty community activist working with a local civil society organisation laid her fears to rest by telling her that she could give it a try for a couple of sessions and if she didn’t like it there was no compulsion to carry on. Javeriya turned out to be a natural on the field and has not looked back ever since. Today, thanks TO the game that has given a “purpose to my life and enabled me to lose my inhibitions”, the youngster is discovering her potential as a person and, of course, as a ball player. In fact, like her, at present there are around 20,263 children in Mysore, who are connected with a highly successful youth programme that imparts valuable life skills through a specially-designed curriculum comprising sports and other “fun activities”.

“I want Javeriya to make a name for herself and we are happy she got the opportunity to go to America!”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO630R 1200 words

Teen Clubs Oppose Early Marriages
Azera Parveen Rahman

While a wedding amidst the verdant, picturesque tea gardens of Assam may seem to be idyllic, even dreamy, the scenario can instantly turn frightful if the bride is a vulnerable, unsuspecting adolescent. Unfortunately, in the rolling hills of the northeastern state, which, incidentally is the largest producer of tea in India, it’s not uncommon for girls to get hitched by the time they hit their early teens. Yet, Seema, 15, from a Dibrugarh district tea garden, managed to escape this dreadful fate because she decided to share her story with her friend, Rumi, 13, and other members of their area Adolescent Girls Club, one of the many being run with the support of the Assam Branch of the Indian Tea Association (ABITA). The youngsters staged an intervention and successfully talked her parents out of it. According to government data, although the prevalence of child marriage in Assam, at 40 per cent, is lower than the national average there are pockets, such as the tea gardens, where the practice is widespread. These figures are just the reflection of ignorance, illiteracy, poor health and poverty that plagues the community. However, in youngsters like Seema, who is back to school now, lies the hope for some much needed change of mindset.

“I am in Class 12 and want to do a course in nursing. It is because girls remain illiterate that they agree to early marriages. Most girls in our labour line are studying today and you won’t find any cases of child marriage there!”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDN402R 1250 words
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