CHANDIGARH: School girls are making a difference in rural Punjab and Haryana, thanks to ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ campaign that was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Panipat two years ago. Take, for instance, Balial village near Sangrur in Punjab. With increasing incidents of eve-teasing, distraught parents had begun to put a stop to their daughters’ schooling. Worse, the girls were being married off at a young age. Geeta Devi, a Class VIII student of Satya Bharti Elementary School, was on the verge of a similar fate, when she decided to turn things around.
“When I came to know that my parents were planning to marry me off, I managed to dissuade them from making me quit studies. I also influenced them by rallying the support of other girls who faced a similar situation. We started door-to-door campaigns to sensitise people on benefits of educating the girl child, and organised community discussions. Our fight against child marriage is our fight for the community,” says Geeta, whose proud parents now support her desire to be a police officer.
Similar is the case with Nisha, Class X student of Adarsh Senior Secondary School at Rauni in Ludhiana. After migrating from Bihar to Punjab, Nisha lived with her parents and five siblings on the outskirts of Rauni. Her mother worked as a domestic help, father did menial jobs and the children were into packing incense sticks to lend a helping hand. It was then that Nisha decided to study. “I convinced my mother to send me to school. Teachers encouraged me to dream,” she says.Ten-year-old Jannat inspired her community when she mobilised material to build a toilet for an underprivileged family. On her daily route to school, Jannat often saw a family of five who defecated in the open.
“They were poor and could not build a toilet. When our village sarpanch visited our school to attend a function as chief guest, I explained the situation to him. Encouraged by my teachers and my own confidence, I could persuade him to provide material to build a toilet at their home. I am proud to spread the message on sanitation I learnt at school,” says the Class V student of Satya Bharti School at Udharsi village in Kurukshetra, Haryana.The attendance in Government Senior Secondary School at Kanina Mandi in Mahendragarh, Haryana, rose after a collective initiative by the girl students. Principal Snehlata said when she probed the reason for a drop in attendance, she found that girls skipped school during menstruation.
The school initiated a lecture series on ‘Adolescent Issues with Focus on Menstrual Hygiene—Myths and Misconceptions’, to impart insights into menstruation. “A group of 46 girls attended the lecture. They took part in open discussions, where they were encouraged to find a solution to their problem. They proposed a sanitary pad bank, and subsequently, the school procured pads for them,” says Snehlata.