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I want to create child marriage free villages

In India’s southern state of Telangana, close to 27 per cent of girls get married between the ages of 15 and 19. A vast majority of these marriages take place in rural areas, predominantly among the most socially and economically disadvantaged communities.

In India’s southern state of Telangana, close to 27 per cent of girls get married between the ages of 15 and 19. A vast majority of these marriages take place in rural areas, predominantly among the most socially and economically disadvantaged communities.

This situation is all too familiar to 18-year-old Ragini* who has seen many teenage girls in her area being forced into child and early marriage by their parents. Ragini, however, is determined that she won’t keep quiet and will do something about it.

My father abandoned me soon after I was born. He wanted a boy. He didn’t want to take up the responsibility of raising a girl child. Barely able to make ends meet, he couldn’t face the prospect of any more hardship to raise money for my dowry in the future. He left my mother and I was brought up by her and my grandmother.

My birth was a result of arranged marriage between my parents. My mother was barely 18. She didn’t have any say in her own marriage that so dramatically changed her life.

I have grown up witnessing the extreme suffering my mother has endured in raising me all by herself – particularly in a society that places even less value on a woman abandoned by her husband. She works very hard as a manual labourer to earn just about enough for us to survive.

Her daily struggles serve as a strong reminder to me as to why girls should never be forced into marriage and why they must be given an education to stand on their own two feet.

When I was in class 8, I became aware that my friend and classmate was getting married – her parents arranged it for her. I was shocked and deeply upset for her. I reported the matter to my teachers who met with the girl’s parents but to no avail. The parents were adamant and strongly resisted anyone interfering into their private affair.

My teachers backed off, but I wasn’t prepared to let this injustice happen to my friend who was just a child. I mobilised about 10 girls in my class and reported the matter to the local authorities. With their intervention the child marriage was stopped. It made me realise that if girls raise their voice, things can change.

A year ago, I became part of Plan International’s Girls Advocacy Alliance project that’s working to end child marriage in my district and is empowering girls to realise their rights.

Being part of a movement that involves many other girls like me has boosted my confidence and strengthened my resolve to make a difference. I have learnt how I can advocate for girls’ rights, mobilise girls to stand up for themselves and influence those who can make things better for them.

With the knowledge and skills I have gained, I have now taken on the challenge to make as many villages child marriage free as possible. I speak to religious and community leaders, hold meetings with local government officials and regularly motivate girls and their parents to put an end to child marriage. Only when the society starts valuing girls equally to boys, real change will happen.

It’s not easy to convince people to change their mindset. It takes a lot of effort. I am used to facing resistance from parents and community elders, but I don’t shy away from speaking my mind. If necessary, I remind them it’s illegal to get their daughters married off if they are under 18.

On the other hand, I tell girls about the help they can access if they are ever in that situation. They can call the helpline or even go the police. I strongly feel that people responsible for child marriage must not go unpunished. Slowly, the change is happening. It will take time, and I am not expecting miracles overnight.

I have completed my A levels and want to pursue a degree in commerce. I want to be a civil servant and pull myself and my mother out of poverty. Recently, my father made contact with us and visits us occasionally. Despite the extreme challenges of the past, I want to keep looking ahead.

Girls tell me that they feel inspired by me and think of me as a leader. I do feel proud of myself that despite all my personal struggles I never feel hopeless and beaten. On the contrary, I feel there is so much more I can achieve.

*Name has been changed to protect identity

I took the lead and stopped my marriage

Sangeetha*, 19, lives with her widowed father, sister and grandparents in a remote village in India’s Telangana state.

Sangeetha*, 19, lives with her widowed father, sister and grandparents in a remote village in India’s Telangana state. Her family lives on a meagre income from agriculture. Poverty, limited opportunities, and perceptions of protecting traditions and family honour – all continue to fuel the practice of child marriage among local communities. Many of Sangeetha’s friends are already married. She herself faced the spectre of child marriage a couple of years ago. That’s when she decided to take matters into her own hands.


 

It’s common in my community for girls to be married off by the time they are 16 or 17. Many girls I grew up within the village are already married and some even have become mothers.

They all tell me how difficult life is for them. From dropping out of education to facing challenges with husband and in-laws, and the burden of early motherhood – they deeply regret it. But they had no choice in their marriage. The decision was made for them.

It’s a tough life for girls here. Their dreams end when it’s time to pursue higher education. The nearest college is miles away in the town and the only way to get there is either on a bicycle or a combination of a long trek to reach the main road and then using an unreliable local bus service which often doesn’t turn up.

Parents don’t want to send their girls to college due to fear of harassment by boys and men during the daily commute. They are always anxious about protecting the family’s honour. Any rumour or even a sighting of a girl speaking to an unknown male can result in severe consequences – from the restriction of movement to being pulled out of education.

As if this is not bad enough, the girls who drop out of school and stay at home are under the constant watch of elders who fear they will fall in love with boys and elope, bringing dishonour to the family. Therefore, for parents, getting their daughters married off as soon as they can is the easiest option. It involves the least hassle. For girls, this means a dead end.

I never wanted to be in that position. That’s why when my father first mentioned marriage to me when I was about 15, I burst into tears. I cried for days in protest and he eventually backed off. I was allowed to continue my A levels, even though my grandparents were opposed to it.


 

I subsequently got involved with Plan India’s Girls Advocacy Alliance (GAA) programme that promotes girls’ and young women’s leadership and equal opportunities for them. Ending child marriage in communities like mine is one of the main priorities of the programme.

I already knew from speaking to other girls how devastating child and early marriage can be. By becoming part of GAA, I gained much more knowledge about the true scale of its harmful impact – from consequences on girls’ health to their ability to have a career and be economically independent. I also gained confidence on how I can protect myself and stand up for my own rights.

So, when my father raised the issue of marriage again recently, I was far better prepared. Even though he was more adamant that before, I was able to explain to him how early marriage would damage my chances in life and that I wanted to become a nurse and have a career.

He faced intense pressure from my grandparents and other people in the community who warned that delaying my marriage would risk family honour and also create difficulties in finding a match for my 16-year-old sister in the future.

I wasn’t going to compromise my future for anything and told my father if he forced me, I would inform the local government official. And if that didn’t work, I would report him to the police.

This time there were no tears. I instead used my voice and confidence to defend my rights. I realised that change must start at home. I took the lead and stopped my own marriage.

At first, my father was surprised by my confidence and my conviction to go to any length to stop my early marriage. After initial reluctance, he came around the idea that it’s in my best interest to complete my science degree and have a career.


 

Girls in my community now look up to me and see me as a leader. They share their problems with me, and I advise them on how they can discuss issues with their parents and speak up for themselves.

I used to be a very shy girl prior to becoming part of GAA. Now, I am a totally transformed young woman. I regularly speak at my college events and also give awareness speeches on the issue of child and early marriage at village fairs and festivals.

I love dancing and now feel confident in myself to give public performances. I also regularly take part in dance competitions across the district.

Feels like my life has totally changed in the last year. I used to hear that there is nothing that girls can’t achieve. I now truly believe it.

*Name has been changed to protect identity

Reaching out through digital classrooms

Covid-19 has threatened the future of thousands of students from disadvantaged communities due to the closure of schools. They are at the risk of dropping out of education for having missed a major part of their academic lessons.

Covid-19 has threatened the future of thousands of children, particularly those from the disadvantaged communities due to closure of schools. They are at the risk of dropping out of education for having missed a major part of their academic lessons. The children who need extra academic support are the most vulnerable and may never return to school, eventually falling into the trap of exploitation like child labour and child marriage.

A group of around 60 Youth Fellows in Bihar and Jharkhand are harnessing the power of digital mediums to ensure the continuity of education for such children. They are aspiring and promising youth between the age group of 18 and 24 years serving as part-time teachers. They provide online after-school support to improve the performance of children from the disadvantaged communities enrolled in VI to X grades.

Realising that physical classrooms are no more a possibility due to COVID-19, they record teaching sessions on topics related to Mathematics, Science and English and share them with children over Whatsapp and YouTube. This is revolutionizing not only the forms of pedagogy but also the ways of learning for the children.

The Youth Fellows were selected by Plan India a year ago to increase the learning outcomes of children who need extra academic support. They were mentored by Plan India experts to cultivate knowledge, skills, and mind-sets necessary to act as a teacher.

When the schools were announced shut due to the lockdown, Plan India’s state teams collaborated with the School Management Committees, and parents and decided to continue educational learning of children through digital mediums like WhatsApp, YouTube etc.

The initiative has been successful in engaging children in the absence of classroom learning experience. With one Youth Fellow attached to 30-40 children, the Fellows are now supporting around 2000 children, the majority of whom are girls. This is being done in more than 80 villages of Samastipur, Muzzafarpur, Saran, Vaishali and Jamui districts of Bihar and Khunti and West Singhum in Jharkhand. They also take out 2-3 hours in a day and thrice in a week to teach in a physical set up while taking all the Covid-19 precautionary measures like social distancing, use of masks, handwashing, etc.

“Taking these classes has made me realise that I can fulfil my dream of becoming a teacher. I too get to learn a lot while teaching the children,” says Preeti, one such Youth Fellow from Shivanandpur village in Samastipur, Bihar. Through this experience of online teaching, the Youth Fellows are getting an intense exposure to the problems of quality education necessary to bring the change and equality for girls and boys in the same.

Asha worker Parbati puts her best foot forward to fight COVID-19

In the wake of COVID-19, Parbati has been on her toes for the past few weeks gathering details about people who are home-quarantined in her village and others who could be vulnerable, at the drop of a hat.

Asha worker Parbati puts her best foot forward to fight COVID-19

In the wake of COVID-19, Parbati has been on her toes for the past few weeks gathering details about people who are home-quarantined in her village and others who could be vulnerable, at the drop of a hat. She stands as a pillar of strength and support for those who are isolated by supplying them with food kits and medicines. She is also generating awareness among the people to maintain social distance in the village and educating them on regular hand washing.


Caption: Parbati doing a regular checkup of a pregnant women in her community

She works in a rural community of Mayurbhanj district in Orissa which has a very low literacy rate and people rely more on local quacks to treat illness rather than seeking professional medical help. As a member of Self Help Group under Plan India’s ‘partner NGO Association for Rural Awareness and Mass Voluntary Action (ARAMVA)’, she along with other members are making and selling masks, something they learnt during a tailoring workshop last year. ARAMVA also empowered her with appropriate knowledge, skill, and attitude through a training programme last year, which is now helping her to deliver her duties of an active frontline healthcare worker in the face of global pandemic outbreak.  Even before the lockdown was announced, she was mobilizing youth leaders of ARAMVA–Plan project to help her stop non-essential and indiscriminate movement from in and out of the village and motivating people to stay indoors.

During her capacity building training, she developed skills and knowledge to facilitate healthcare services, adolescent health, social education, child health care, pregnancy care, safe delivery, lactating mother care, growth monitoring, public health counseling etc. She is now able to perform her duties in an impactful and desired manner and ensuring the safety of the people of her village and the surrounding communities.


Caption: Parbati checking the weight of a new born baby in her community

She also counsels women on birth preparedness, institutional delivery, importance of safe delivery and breastfeeding. She accompanies pregnant women to health centres for antenatal check-up, delivery and postnatal check-up and mobilises people to facilitate them in accessing health related services including medical care for minor ailments and new born care.

Parbati is among hundreds of other Asha workers whom Plan India is striving to empower so that they can bring an impact in the health outcomes of the people in their communities.

To know about Plan India response on COVID19 click here

In control of my destiny

Plan India’s Safer Cities programme strives to increase safety and access to public spaces for girls. The overarching goal of the programme is to build safe,

Plan India’s Safer Cities programme strives to increase safety and access to public spaces for girls. The overarching goal of the programme is to build safe, accountable and inclusive cities with and for adolescent girls in all of their diversity.

“Everybody is precious and has their own values”, says Meera (name changed), a spunky 17 year old member of a Safer Cities girls’ club in Delhi. The youngest in a family of eight, she is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Commerce at Delhi University.

She is also the face of Safer Cities and its considerable work in her locality, but was initially very hesitant to join. This was because she endured constant eve teasing when walking to and from school. So much so, she and her friends only ventured out of home when accompanied by family.

All this changed when Meera attended a meeting organised by Plan India on gender equality and girl friendly public spaces. Struck by the immense possibilites that lay ahead, she became a member of the Pahal (“Initiative”) girls club and was soon leading community activities and safety assessments, in addition to advocating with adult stakeholders and government officials to address issues faced by girls in her community. With Meera at the helm, street lights and CCTV cameras have beeninstalled in her locality, security guards have been positioned outside local schools, and local leaders have been roped into programme implementation.

Needless to say, Meera has been integral to the visibility and success of Safer Cities in Delhi. Her sphere of influence has only widened with time, but began with her father, an electric rickshaw driver who is now also associated with the programme. With Meera’s encouragement, he participated in a sensitisation workshop for informal transport staff, and it is with great pride that she speaks of the marked change in his attitude towards girls since then.

Now, he is an avid promoter of girls’ rights and counsels other drivers on the need to ensure the safety of female passengers. What’s more, as a result of Meera and his encouragement, Meera’s mother too is part of the community level child protection committee that leads discourse on gender equality and parents’ responsibilties regarding child rights.

Galvanised by Meera, a powerful and self-assured champion of change, her entire family and community have made great strides towards building a safer city for girls.

“Because of the BIAAG programme, I’ve learned many things and grown from strength to strength. I want to change and better my community, and I am proud to say we’ve begun to see a difference because of our work. Now, girls and boys in my community – starting from their homes – are treated equally. What better way to ensure inclusive development than to equip both girls and boys with the skills to change the world?”

Scaling the heights of success

“Growing up, life wasn’t easy. My father’s passing when I was little, and mother’s frequent ill-health made getting by impossible most days.

Uttarkashi is home to 330,000 men, women and Mamta – one remarkably brave girl.

Mamta lives in Bhankoli, Uttarkashi with her family. Her father passed away in 2002 while her mother has been unwell a long time. The remote village she lives in is considered a disaster prone area. Life, at most times, has not been kind. Making ends meet has been a constant struggle.

In 1997, Mamta became associated with Plan India and Sri Bhuvneshwari Mahila Ashram (SBMA) as a sponsored child. Through this association, she was able to pursue many activities and events that would help her blossom into a confident young woman. On completing her schooling, she enrolled in a training course on mountaineering. She went on to complete Advance Adventure and Search and Rescue courses in 2008 and 2010 from the Himalayan Adventure Institute and Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM) respectively, with Plan India’s support. Her abilities were recognised and she was employed as an instructor as soon as she completed the courses. Her life finally seemed to be coming together.

Till date, Mamta has successfully conducted over 50 training courses as an instructor. Her skills as a trainer shone through brightest when one of her students – Arunima Sinha (a special needs girl) successfully climbed Mount Everest. Mamta has also run a physical fitness programme for 50 youths so they can join the local police or Indian army.

In 2013 however, her skills were put to the ultimate test. While leading a group of 40 children as part of a mountaineering course, disaster struck. A flash flood hit the area putting their lives in grave danger. But for Mamta’s skills, the likelihood of their survival was bleak. Thankfully, she was able to use her knowledge and experience to guide her group to safety. Even more remarkable, during the disaster, she lent support to a further 5,000 people by relocating them to safer places.

Mamta’s heroism has garnered much praise from all corners of India. Tennis superstar Sania Mirza nominated her on “Aaj Ki Raat Hai Zindagi” (Tonight’s the Night), a show on the acclaimed Star Plus television channel that honours people who have accomplished the extraordinary. She was awarded for her bravery by legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan in an episode that was televised nationally.

Mamta continues to work with NIM as an instructor, with youth in her community, and is part of the Green People, an agro-tourism initiative to promote sustainable development in Uttarakhand.

Fashioning a Brighter Future

Paras, 21, lives with his parents and sister in a densely populated development on the outskirts of Delhi’s South West district.

Paras, 21, lives with his parents and sister in a densely populated development on the outskirts of Delhi’s South West district. He wants to make a career in fashion retail – something of an unusual choice for his extended family and friends who don’t have much knowledge of what it means or involves. Paras is currently enrolled in the Saksham programme and is learning job related skills along with other young men.

He says, “My father is in a government job. Most families and most boys themselves prefer a government job. It is considered as the best option for lifelong security. I guess I will have to try for a government job too but I want to make a career in fashion retail.”

“I have always been interested in fashion. I like dressing up smart and get a lot of comments from friends and other people, especially on social media, where I have more than 250 friends on Facebook.”

“Despite my interest in fashion retail, I wasn’t sure how and where to make a start. It’s not even something I could find out more about from my circle of friends or family as nobody had any idea. So when I got a leaflet about the Saksham programme offering free training for retail jobs, I was really excited.”

“I enrolled for the programme straight away and it was the best decision I ever made. I always dreamt of being able to speak English as it is a basic requirement for any decent jobs these days and more so in the fashion sector because of the kind of clientele it attracts. At Saksham, I am realising my dream. I am learning basic conversation skills in English and progressing very well. It just makes me feel confident that I can join a fashion retailer.”

“I can feel the change in my personality and the way I look at things. The biggest shift has been how I relate to girls. Prior to joining Saksham, I used to be very hesitant speaking to girls. It is not something that boys like me are used to due to the social environment we grow up in. Boys and girls remain distant and many boys struggle with how they relate to girls.”

“At Saksham, the majority of students are young women. It has been a great learning curve for me to train with girls as one group and hold conversations with them. In our lessons, we have been taught about gender relations in all spaces – something that most boys aren’t even aware of. I learnt that there is no job that boys can do and girls can’t.”

“My learnings have totally changed my attitude towards girls. It is nice to see how students who have graduated from Saksham are in jobs where boys and girls work together as one team. I would like to be in a place like that. I respect girls a lot now. I have realised that girls and boys are equal.”

Earning Her Respect

Twenty-four-year-old Shimla works as a daily wage labourer in Uttar Pradesh. Hailing from Ambedkar Nagar, one of the state’s most backward districts, she and many other female residents have

Twenty-four year old Shimla works as a daily wage labourer in Uttar Pradesh. Hailing from Ambedkar Nagar, one of the state’s most backward districts, she and many other female residents have been compelled, by less-than-favourable economic conditions, restricted mobility, patriarchal tradition and age-old discrimination against girls and women, to pursue this line of work.

Until recently, she spent every day in search of work anywhere she could find it – in fragmented workplaces with countless, exploitative and loutish employers – to earn a mere INR 80-100. She worked long hours at work without so much as a break, and came home to a growing list of chores and responsibilities as her husband, Vijay, refused to help out or find employment.

In 2015, Shimla attended the Plan India and European Union supported International Women’s Day celebration as part of the Samanta Project that aims to create a discrimination-free environment for working women by enabling them access to information on workplace rights and equality.

Life was never the same. She had found a platform to reflect, learn, lead and take bold initiatives for gender equality – at home and at work. She joined the programme, its Working Women Collective, and soon learned about workplace provisions and rights to which she and all her friends had always been entitled. She made good on this knowledge and began counselling her peers and advocating for the achievement of their rights.

In October 2016, her employer refused to pay her wages, despite a fortnight of work and her repeated requests. She took this up with fellow members of the Collectives and, bolstered, approached the Gram Pradhan (village head), persuading him to intervene. Together, they took the matter further, presenting their case to the Department of Labour and Employment in the district block of Akbarpur.

Supported by the Women’s Collective and with the law and senior government representatives on her side, Shimla’s employer came around. He increased all his female employees’ wages to match that of the men – INR 170 – almost double the amount they were receiving.

Inspired, Shimla is determined to break the glass ceiling for all women. Her routine now features orienting women on their rights, motivating and mobilising them to come together, and negotiating with their employers. In November 2016, under her leadership, the Collectives, for the very first time, were able to secure agricultural labour contracts with their employers. In doing so, they have become equal partners in the profits of these enterprises.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Shimla and her peers commemorated the day by setting upon a priority agenda of negotiation with employers on the provisions of a gender friendly workplace environment. Their list included eight hours of work, a one-hour break, equal pay (to that of men), safe drinking water facilities and a routine feedback session for grievance redressal. These changes aren’t always welcome, but they are always advocated, fiercely.

In view of Shimla’s formidable negotiation skills, she has earned great respect within her family, community and neighbouring communities too. So much so, other women from ten proximate villages have since joined the Women’s Collective and engage in empowering reflection and discussion – just like their role model.

Vijay too, has realised the error of his ways and is now very supportive of his wife – both at her workplace and in the home. They work together to contribute to their household chores and finances, jointly dealing with every day issues as well as planning for their future. With her savings, Shimla was able to repay an outstanding debt to a neighbour.

Speaking of her success, she says, “It was near impossible to convince my employers to pay me wages in parity with my male peers. There were times I ran their personal errands to change their mind-set in the hope that they would see my capabilities and know I was equal to any man, but this was a losing battle considering the monetary gains and patriarchy involved.”

“Now, my approach to problems has changed due to my learnings from Samanta and the Working Women’s Collectives. I have moved from request to negotiation, towards a vision of equality for all women everywhere. In coming years, I hope to increase the periphery of all local, contracted work so the women in my village and all neighbouring ones too, have access to work opportunities, greater confidence, empowerment and improved household economic security.”

Men and Women Should Both Work Together

Vikas, 22, lives his parents and two siblings in a rural settlement along the southern border of Delhi. He has done a diploma in electronic communications and wants to get a job in the

Vikas, 22, lives his parents and two siblings in a rural settlement along the southern border of Delhi. He has done a diploma in electronic communications and wants to get a job in the IT sector. Vikas travels nearly 50 kilometres on public transport every day to attend his classes at a Saksham training centre.

His journey is more than just some distance. Vikas moves between two environments that couldn’t be more apart – a predominantly male-dominated and gender segregated community at home, and a classroom where he is undertaking job skills training alongside girls and also learning about gender equality.

He says, “I came to know about the Saksham programme through a friend. I got hold of a leaflet and was really impressed by the offer of free training and the variety of subjects covered such as communication skills and personality development. I needed both. Also, I had heard about the high success rate of Saksham graduates in finding a decent employment after completing the training.”

“Prior to joining the Saksham programme, I had absolutely no idea what kind of skills employers are looking for, and what it’s like to work in different sectors such as retail, IT and call centres.”

“Most youth like me coming from poorer background are totally clueless about how to enter the decent job market. That’s why I consider myself lucky that I came to know about Saksham.”

“When I joined Saksham the very first thing I noticed is that boys and girls do exactly the same job training together. I learnt that there no jobs that are for men or women only. Both can do the same job.”

“It was a total change of scene for me coming from an area where you rarely see girls in public spaces. Most girls in my neighbourhood are not allowed to continue their education after they pass their Class X exams. Many are married straight after or help with domestic chores until they eventually get married. Getting a job that involves stepping outside the home is not an option for girls. Also there are bad boys in the area who don’t value girls at all and make girls feel uncomfortable. Vikas takes part in a retail role play session at a Saksham training centre.”

“Prior to joining Saksham, I didn’t really have any opinion on girls’ education and their employment after they complete their education, but now I do. I strongly feel that girls must not be discriminated against and they should be allowed to get an education. Men and women should both work.”

“When we meet former graduates, particularly girls, who are now in decent jobs, they tell us at workplace young men and women work together and show mutual respect to each other.”

“I am loving my training at Saksham. It has made me confident and totally changed my outlook towards so many things – from how I conduct myself as a professional to how I relate to girls and women. I have never been taught like this ever before.”

Picking up the Pieces

India is home to one of the largest child labourer population in the world. According to the Census of India 2011, more than 8 million children go to work rather than to school. New Delhi alone has more than 15,000

India is home to one of the largest child labourer population in the world. According to the Census of India 2011, more than 8 million children go to work rather than to school. New Delhi alone has more than 15,000 rag-pickers.

Apart from living in inhospitable conditions, these children, along with their parents, work seven days a week, picking through garbage that is toxic in nature, a serious health hazard they are more than aware off. But they have to because their lives depend on it.

Among such children was Sanam (name changed). She has been a rag-picker since the age of 8.

“After my parents migrated to Delhi from Rajasthan, we thought our lives would change for the better. Struggling to overcome our financial situation, there was no other option but for me to join my parents and younger siblings in working at the godown.”

“It was hard for me especially because I thought that after moving to Delhi, I would get the chance to go to school and college. Then I could get a job and provide a better life for my family. I struggled in the beginning to come to terms with this fact. But I never lost hope.”

More than a year had passed and Sanam was still picking pieces of plastic from mounds of garbage. It was a meeting with a Plan India staff member from the Anti-Child Labour Project that would bring much needed change in her life. Staff members spent time talking and counselling the parents to send Sanam to school. The effort eventually paid off.

Sanam, along with her siblings, soon enrolled into the project and joined the Knowledge Enhancement Centre. Along with the other children, she was given non-formal education. Not long after, one of her dreams was fulfilled when she was enrolled into a government school.

“She is so active in class. The changes we’ve seen in her over the years are truly remarkable. Initially, she was shy and hardly spoke to others, often keeping to herself. Now, she’s the first to raise her hand to answer or ask a question.” – Vishal, Project Coordinator

Today, not only Sanam, but her parents have also given up rag-picking. They now live in a resettlement colony in New Delhi where they can see their children grow up in a safe environment.

“Sanam was always eager to go to school and would often cry when, instead, she had to go to work. As a mother, it was hard for me to see her like this. Thankfully, now my children can look forward to a bright future. And as for Sanam, this is the happiest she’s ever been and that’s more than enough for me.” Nadeema, Sanam’s mother.