Access to water and other facilities continues to be a problem in many parts of rural India. Recognising the need for a solution, three girls got together to help bring water access to their village through the construction of a borewell.
Women walking long distances to fetch water is a common sight in many Indian villages. So common that even the villagers cease to get bothered by it. Navagaon, a remote village in the Bilaspur district of Chhattisgarh, was no exception. The villagers failed to notice the hardship their womenfolk encountered while fetching and carrying water over long distances, until the resolve and persistence of three girls—Ahilya Kumari, Anjani Kumari, and Rajin Kumari—changed it all.
Over the years, India has seen an improvement in the number of children getting enrolled in school. However, there are several reasons that make them drop out of school half-way.
The situation gets worse if you are a girl.
Pratham Education Foundation’s ‘Second Chance’ Program reaches out to school dropouts, mainly girls and women, and supports them in completing the Class X examination. The program currently runs in nine states, namely Maharashtra, Odisha, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh.
After successfully completing the Class X Board Examination, some of these girls pursue higher education. Others opt for professional courses, while some choose to support their family by taking up jobs. The intervention is offered in two phases—a foundation course (four months) and the main course (seven months).
A module on ‘Life Skills’ is offered during the foundation course in addition to the core academic subjects. This module focuses on skills like problem solving, decision making, critical and creative thinking, along with communications and interpersonal skills. The module ensures that students learn some fundamental skills which help them face real-life situations.
This year, the Life Skills module moved beyond the classroom, and encouraged the students to solve real-life problems through project work. The students were given a problem-solving challenge. In groups of 3-6, they had to identify an issue in their community and work towards resolving it.
Students across nine states took this problem-solving challenge and worked on a wide range of issues like alcoholism, domestic violence, hygiene, malnutrition, infrastructural issues including construction of roads and public toilets, rain water harvesting, and more.
“In our village, there was a water problem. The women in the village had to walk a great distance to fetch water. So we insisted and spoke to the Sarpanch about giving our village a bore well,” says Ahilya. “However the elders in the village asked us why we were getting involved with such things. Our elder brothers felt we were wasting time,” says Anjani. “We had to visit the Sarpanch several times during this period. Finally he agreed, and we now have a bore well in our village,” says Ahilya with pride. It took a month and a half of relentless effort to get the borewell installed. “Now the women won’t have to go to any other village to fetch water,” the girls say happily.
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Navagaon has acknowledged the efforts of these three musketeers. “We all feel very good that our daughter is learning again and that she has achieved this,” Ahilya’s parents say with satisfaction. “I felt very good, that someone came to me with their problem, and felt even better that these young girls want to do something for our village,” admits the village Sarpanch.
These girls are unstoppable now. They have imbibed the spirit of the project and taken it well beyond the assignment. The village has a school till Class VIII. The girls demanded to extend it to Class XII, and the school administration granted their wish.
Their project ended with the installation of a borewell, but it set a cycle of initiative and active participation in motion.
The achievement of these girls is significant for two reasons—one, it is evident how an intervention like this helps individuals, otherwise low on confidence, to come together and take charge of their lives; and two, the project work in Life Skills led to a virtuous cycle of initiative, action and results, thereby boosting the confidence of hundreds of girls who actually did it and thousands of people who witnessed it.
Help Pratham support girls and women who had to drop out from school to have a Second Chance at completing secondary education by donating here.