Tell me about your community. How would you describe it to someone who has never been there before?
I live in Gadiyala village, Bikaner district. It is located in the western part of Rajasthan.
We have beautiful dunes adorning our region. Our ancestors have been living in the region for centuries. Unlike the people living in cities who are cunning and do not
safeguard the interests of their community members, the people of my region are simple-minded and look after each other well. The members are warm and respectful
of each other.
What do you see when you walk around or look outside your house? What do you smell?
What is your favorite part of living there?
I love the desert landscape. I find the beautiful dunes of the Thar desert very calming.
I am glad that my house is located in the region overlooking the sand dunes. Our house is surrounded by the houses of our village folks. Unlike some other
people who tend to stay in the dhaanis (hamlets located in the field), we stay in the village as we do not own any farming land.
Tell me about your family. What are their personalities like?
I have a family of five members. Along with my parents, there are two younger brothers. My mother is the one who keeps the house in order. Under the Integrated
Child Development Scheme of the government, her mother works as an Anganwadi Sahayika (Anganwadi Helper) at the Anganwadi centre at the village and the family
mostly survives on her monthly income of INR 4,000. She is the one who checks up on our homework. She manages the household chores. My father is mentally challenged. He is a tailor by profession and whenever he feels better, he supports the
household with his income. His personality is very calm. But still, she has continued with her education. One of my brothers is studying in the eighth grade and learning
stitching work in Udaipur city. The younger one is in seventh grade. I am close to both my siblings.
How have they influenced you and shaped you into the person you are?
My parents have emphasized the importance of education to lead a good life. They have always told me that humility comes from a good education and I must work hard to do well. Their passion to help me finish my schooling keeps
me motivated to be sincere and work hard.
Tell me about your first memories of school. Did you like it from the start or did it take some time?
What do you like best about school now?
Playing and learning together is what I think is best about school.
What is your favorite subject and why?
My favorite subject at school is Hindi. I have always enjoyed listening to the stories that our teacher narrates in our classes. Through those stories, I can
travel to different locations, times, and characters.
Do you have a memory at school that stands out to you, such as a memorable lesson or a time you accomplished something that made you proud?
As a child, I used to enjoy playing on the swings in the school playground. My closest friend was Uma. We used to have a wonderful time playing together in
grades fourth and fifth. I remember we used to hum songs in Marwari while playing.
Why do you think going to school is important?
I believe that education is very important for a person’s growth and development. Material wealth is temporary but the real wealth lies in education. School is a sacred
institution that ensures the children get good education and opportunities. Going to school becomes important for everyone to lead a better life and gain good opportunities.
What are some of the reasons girls in your community don’t complete their education or have to drop out of school?
In our part of the world, a girl is often referred to as “paraya dhan” meaning someone else’s wealth. The girls at their ancestral home are considered as the property of her
in-laws and society believes that the life of a girl would only begin at her husband’s house. The family of the girl thus prefers to not invest much in their education because
they believe ultimately the girl has to go to her husband’s home and manage her new house. The parents believe that the girl is a mere guest at her ancestral home and
prefer to educate their sons. This social rigidity attached to preserving the honor of the girl forces the families to not let her venture out in the public spaces and complete her education.
How does that make you feel when you see girls drop out?
I believe education is the most important thing in an individual’s life. It can provide so many opportunities. I come from a family with limited means. My
mother was able to step up and support the household with her income only because of her foundational education. In a society where women have to deal with such harsh unforeseeable circumstances, I worry how not completing
schooling makes them more vulnerable to more difficult situations. My friend Savitri was forced to drop out by her brother. I still feel that it was unfortunate
that she had to drop from school.
How has your family’s support helped you to stay in school?
My family has been supportive of my education. As I mentioned, my family has limited resources but they never insisted that I drop out of school. Be it homework or any emotional support my parents extended it helped me
continue my studies.
Are girls treated the same as boys in your community? If not, why do you think that is?
No, the boys are given opportunities whereas the girls are denied opportunities since our birth. The girls have no independence in making their decisions. Everything is
imposed on us. Decisions on education, marriage, family, and finances are taken for us. The families here think that the girls represent their honor and do not want any
untoward thing to happen to them. They believe that they need to guide the girls and end up snatching away every freedom that she could enjoy. For a boy, on the other
hand, things are easy.
Tell me about participating in Urmul Trust’s girls’ groups. What do you do in the girl groups? What do you like best about them? What is something you’ve
learned from being part of the group?
I was part of the kishori prerna manch (adolescent girls’ groups) formed by Urmul. Under a literacy festival for adolescents organised by Urmul, we even had the
opportunity to visit the Lunkaransar campus of Urmul in Bikaner district where we interacted with so many other girls. We were motivated to continue our education.
Even in my village, the members from Urmul used to visit to teach us about good and bad touch, child rights, menstrual hygiene, and other informative things.
One thing that stood out for me during those interactions with the Urmul Trust team was to trust ourselves to understand our problem and find the solution. As girls, no
one teaches us to be confident and never doubt ourselves. The faith is shown by the members in us and our future was inspiring. The sense of camaraderie that they
encouraged all girls to develop is what makes me believe that with the right support we can do better.
What do you hope to do in the future?
I wish to become a doctor in the future. In my region, people are poor and they have poor access to health services. Village folk in the adjacent region have to pay huge
bribes to avail services even in government hospitals. We are at the receiving end. I wish to complete my medical training and then come back to region to practice
medicine. I have noticed that women are hesitant to get treated by a male doctor. We do not have big machines nor do we have trained doctors. Nevertheless, I am
motivated to come back to serve my people and ensure that I do a small bit for my people.
What advice would you give to girls who are experiencing barriers to their education?
My advice would be to not let go of your dream of completing a good education. Even if your elders are not giving you the support you need, you still need to fight hard.
One never knows what might work in their favor.
How has COVID-19 affected your education/plans?
I am presently in class tenth. In eighth grade, I had received a B grade, and this academic year I thought I would perform well. However, with the imposition of
lockdown and classes shifted to the online medium, the students of our region were left in lunch. I do not have a smartphone which made it difficult for me to keep up with
the online classes. Even understanding the homework that we received became difficult. This year has gone by in a blur. I cannot recall any lesson which to me is very
frustrating. I am unsure of my performance in this academic year