Girls struggling against odds in Maharashtra honoured

Bhumika Kumare (16) knows how painful sickle cell anaemia can get. She has seen her mother, who has the disease, go through excruciating phases, when the blood thickens and the veins become distended. “Winters are unbearable. My mother needs blood transfusion every week,” she explains.

Source: The Hindu

Bhumika Kumare (16) knows how painful sickle cell anaemia can get. She has seen her mother, who has the disease, go through excruciating phases, when the blood thickens and the veins become distended. “Winters are unbearable. My mother needs blood transfusion every week,” she explains.

Her mother’s condition led Bhumika, a 12th standard student, to opt for Science, so she can become a doctor. Medical studies entail plodding through tomes Bhumika’s family can hardly afford. Her mother ekes out a living in Nagpur doing domestic work; her father, though he does painting work, is an alcoholic and gets abusive. Bhumika and her siblings stay in a hostel in Yavatmal district.

“Twice, me, my brother, sister and mom, have tried to commit suicide, but were dissuaded by my relative,” Bhumika says. Saddled with these burdens, how does she concentrate on her studies?

“It’s only by studying can I take care of my mother. After I finish my 12th, I will take the CET [common entrance test] and then prepare for the PMT [pre-medical test].” The strength of Bhumika’s resolve can silence any naysayer.

Nine such girls, who make the daily effort to keep at their books, despite leading poverty-ridden lives fraught with other challenges, were felicitated here last week at an event called Navjyoti.’ A collaboration of the DD Sahyadri, an arm of the Doordarshan, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Navjyoti’ seeks to honour the struggle of girl children, from backward districts of Maharashtra, for pursuing education in adverse circumstances.

Vandana More (18), from Nandurbar, is one such struggler. Her day is divided in such a way that she has no option but to burn the midnight oil. Vandana leaves her house at 8 a.m. to work as a farm labourer. She earns Rs. 60 a day. Her father, also a labourer, earns Rs. 90 a day. Her mother has undergone an operation for appendicitis, due to which the family has a debt of Rs. 40,000, she says.

When Vandana returns home at 4 p.m., she cooks and cleans. When night falls, she opens her books. “I am appearing for the class 10 exam privately, as there is no time to go to school,” she said. Her village in Kakarda has a school only up to class five. For the next levels, Vandana would cover 8 km to attend school. She thinks about other girls of her village, many who dropped out owing to similar poverty at home. “I want to study so that my future generations are not illiterate,” says Vandana.

Many of the girls who were felicitated are also actively involved in the UNICEF programmes in their village, and believe in contributing their bit to society. Priyanka Patil from Sangli is involved in spreading awareness on HIV among pregnant women.

Besides her medical dreams, Bhumika has a grand plan for change. “I want to eradicate child marriage. My mother got married at 14 and she has had to suffer domestic abuse. I don’t want to go through this.”

It’s an ongoing battle for the girls, as uncertainties loom large. One year later, 13-year-old Soni Kale, a Jalna-based class seven student, wonders where the pursuit of learning would take her. This national-level kho-kho player and sprinter’s school has only up to class 8. Soni lost her parents at a very young age, and is cared for by her grandparents.

“I have many dreams, but in a year’s time, I don’t know what I shall do,” she says.



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