We all hope that one day, gender inequality will vanish, that one day, we will live in a world where every little girl will get an education, that one day, the little girls won’t get married before they menstruate, that one day the parents will be equally happy with a girl child as they would have been with a boy. We just hope. Let’s hear about the people fighting all odds to keep that hope alive.
The little girl, Sandhya was playing around as I reached the only Adivasi house in the village. She saw some unknown people coming towards their house; she quickly ran to her mother, “Maa, people are coming towards our home.”
Little Sandhya in their courtyard
She is not accustomed to unknown people walking into their house, sitting with them, talking to them. The whole family was elated to talk to us. Sonali Hembrom, a borrower of Milaap and the little girl’s mother, spoke about the loan that she got for installation of the solar light. The little one was not talking to anyone. She even stopped replying to her family members. I asked her mother, “Is she scared or something?” Her mother said, “No no, not scared. She has not seen other people coming to our house other than this sir (points at one of our field officers).”
As I started talking to Sonali about what does she want her daughter to grow up to be, I was taken aback by the response I got. She said, “Both me and my husband wanted a son, but now we have three daughters. We don’t want our daughters to get married without any education. So we have sent our second daughter to the nearby hostel. We want to educate our daughters as we would have done for our sons.”
Sandhya's mother, Sonali
This was much unexpected. In a village where most of the little girls are married by the time they reach the age of 15 and most of the boys are already school drop-outs; this was indeed an extraordinary thought that Sonali had expressed. Now Sandhya started talking to us. First, she introduced us to her only friend, the dog, which she named Dhamu. “Dhamu is my only friend, the other kids don’t play with me. Dhamu plays with me the whole day”, says Sandhya. I asked her, “Do you go to school?” She replied, “Yes, Baba said if I go to school, I can go to the city.” Then she called her grandmother, “Dida, see they have come from the city.” I asked her, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I thought it was too heavy a question for a kid like her. But no, it wasn’t. She quickly replied, “I want to become a Didimoni (teacher), I want to wear salwar kamiz and go to the school to teach others.” Then I went on asking who is her favourite teacher, very wittily she said, “There is only one teacher in the school.”
The family could not send the eldest daughter to boarding school, Sonali said, “We do not have enough money to send the eldest daughter to the same boarding school. The scope of income here in this village is also very low. People don’t talk to us as my husband and his mother slaughter pigs. Moreover, we are Adivasis. They think we will cause harm to their children. So they don’t even talk to us, forget about giving us work.” The mother had to choose between her two daughters but wishes that she can send the most intelligent one, the youngest daughter, to boarding school. “We chose between the two daughters. As the second one was more intelligent we had sent her to school. Now the local school teacher says we should send the youngest one as well, I don’t know how can we do that. My husband says he will, no matter what.”
I hugged the kid and said, “You will grow up and wear a salwar kamiz and teach others someday. Then I will come to you and become your student. Okay?”. She innocently nodded.
As I bid goodbye, Dhamu and Sandhya followed me as far as they could and waited till we took the last turn.
Sandhya playing with her pet dog, Dhamu