UNICEF Radio correspondent Blue Chevigny reports on three ‘Girl Stars’ in India whose lives have been transformed by education.
NEW YORK, USA, 9 May 2007 – Starting this week, three colourful trucks will take 15 short films on a road show to 180 villages across three states in India, encouraging a positive dialog with communities on the benefits of girls’ education.
The films profile the ‘Girl Stars’ – participants in a UNICEF-supported programme that highlights girls and young women who have used education and personal motivation to positively change their own lives and the lives of others in their communities. The series documents stories of girls from disadvantaged areas in five Indian states who have managed to break through socio-economic constraints to make a success of their lives and become self-sufficient.
Directly as result of their education, these girls and women have become role models, inspiring younger girls to go to school and stay in school. They are working as teachers and nurses, as well as in more unusual and traditionally male fields such as archery, beekeeping, and scrap management.
The Girl Star films have been shown on television in India, but the bus tour will allow audiences in rural areas – people who don’t have easy access to electricity – to see them. The trucks will travel through the states of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar, showing the films to communities over a 30-day period.
The Girl Stars themselves will be at the screenings in the vicinity of their own villages to meet community members in person.
One of the young women profiled in the films, Roopali Jain (who goes by the name Ruby), owns a beauty parlour in Guna village, Madhya Pradesh. Ruby says she was empowered to complete her education through 12th grade, and to begin an ambitious career, because of the support of her mother.
“If my mother was not educated, she would not have educated her children,” Ruby told UNICEF Radio, “because my father used to say that girls should get married at a young age – but my mother insisted that the girls be educated. If I had not been educated, I would not have been able to open by beauty parlour and I would not have been able to achieve anything.”
Krishna Bagel, another Girl Star, is a primary school teacher in a government school in Tikaria village, Madhya Pradesh. Krishna’s father promised himself that all of his children would complete their education, and he supported her continuing in school. She knew at a young age that she wanted to be a teacher.
Before Krishna began teaching children, she taught literacy to adult women at night school. She says it still can be a struggle to get parents to put their girls in school.
“Before school begins in the morning, I go around to the homes and put a little pressure on the families, saying that they must send their daughters to school,” Krishna explained in a telephone interview, adding that she makes these home visits every couple of days.
Girl Star Anita Khushwaha is a beekeeper in Bochaha village, Bihar. When Anita was younger her parents did not want her to go to school, so she began sneaking into classrooms unnoticed during free moments from her work as a domestic. Eventually, after much persuasion, her parents agreed to put her through fifth grade.
After that, it was up to her to find the funds to attend classes. She began tutoring, and when that didn’t earn her enough money, she developed a fascination with bees. There are many beekeepers where she lives, making honey from the lychee trees that grow there.
“I saw that the bees were so tiny, but they did so much work! They collect so much honey,” Anita told UNICEF. “So, I thought, if these little insects can achieve so much, I am such a huge person, I have hands and legs, why can’t I achieve anything? I decided to nurture the bees and become like them, and remain busy like them.”
Anita was the first young woman in her community to try beekeeping – traditionally a man’s job. Today, she has over 100 boxes of bees, pays for college by selling their honey and is still only 17 years old.
“I want to tell all girls that if they want to do something, they must have the courage, the conviction, and the belief, and anything is possible,” Anita asserted.