One of the major highlights of this village in the Udaipur district of Rajasthan is the presence of a primary school. Surrounded by the Aravalli range, reaching here requires facing the narrow and unpaved roads. Living in one of the scattered household is the 9-year old Manu Kumari*. Manu has always been confined to her home and on lucky days, she gets to spend her time with her pet hens and goats. The little girl however never stopped dreaming about a pucca (permanent or solid) house rather than their current kutcha (impermanent) house. Her house is surrounded by her family’s lush farms and she always wondered what was on the other side of it.

Educate Girls’ Team Balika volunteers are educated and determined youth of their village who go to any lengths to make every girl in their village educated. They along with Educate Girls’ staff go through extreme terrains and knock on every door to identify out-of-school girls and convince their parents to send them back to school. On one such visits they came across Manu’s home where they tried to understand the reason of her not being at school.

Manu’s parents were not any different from the majority of the population in the village who considered sending girls to school a waste of time and money. Her mother said, “Manu’s grandmother is very old and my husband and I spend the entire day working at the farm, so who is going to take care of the cattle and housework? It would be better if she stays here and helps me out”.  Educate Girls’ Team Balika never let her parent’s refusal come in between the end goal of sending Manu to school. For this, he visited their home multiple times, sometimes with the school teacher and sometimes with the village head who spoke to them about the various benefits of girls’ education. The convincing took months but her parents reluctantly said yes. Manu was finally enroled in Grade 1 in 2017!

Manu with her mother and grandmother

Her parents, especially her mother who was skeptical about this new journey changed her perspective in just a few months of Manu’s schooling. “It gives me immense joy to see my child so happy returning from school and telling us the innumerable things she learns at school. I am glad we made this decision, I wish we had someone like Team Balika back in our day to guide us too” says her mother.

It has been four years since Manu was enrolled in school and now she knows a way to fulfill her dream of a pucca house, it is through teaching! She is currently in Grade 5 and can’t wait to go to school post the pandemic.

*Name changed.

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