18-year-old changemaker, Anju Verma’s life story is a compelling narrative of the triumph of the spirit: Anju was born in Daulatpur village in Haryana, a State with a skewed sex ratio, with a regressive attitude towards women. She was just 10-yrs-old when she voiced against injustice faced by children and later went on to advocate for many women in trouble. Her father works as a truck driver, and knew nothing about her work, until a few years later when she spoke about it at a TedX Conference.
“I noticed a few girls in my class who were always getting punished for not finishing their homework. I asked them, ‘why don’t y'all just finish the homework?’ They said, ‘We wake up at 5 am to finish all the work at home before we are allowed to go to school. And after coming back home,
again do some chores. And in case we take our books out to study, our parents say, ‘if you girls start studying, then who will do the work at home?’ So please make our parents understand’”
She realised 99% of the girls around her were stuck in this manner and made up her mind to do something about it. She went around talking to parents, village heads, and landowners about how important education is and the punishment imposed for employing child labour. ‘I used to give excuses to my dad saying, ‘I have to get a book from a friend, or go attend a group study’. Honestly speaking, I was giving a TEDx Talk, and my dad was seated in the audience, that's when he got to know about the work I was doing. There's a lot of difference confessing about it at home and at the conference. If I revealed it at home they’d have scolded me and told me to stop the work.’
Anju enrolled 700+ students who used to work as child labourers,
prevented nearly 65 child marriages,
5+ cases of domestic violence,
registered 15 sexual harassment cases.
“My family background wasn’t such that I could start an NGO, so I used to keep my needs aside and save up money to provide for the needy. It's so difficult to convince a child who’s dropped out for even a year to go back to school. And we came across 500-600 children who were orphans or whose parents have 6 daughters and can't afford to feed or educate them. I want to start a shelter home for these children to give them a good education and proper shelter, a life they deserve but we need your help.