Gayathri was the first recipient of an MDIP scholarship. We met her family in June 2016 in a slum near the beach in Chennai called Oorurukuppam. She is the oldest daughter of Machekantan, a fisherman, and the only one in her large family to attend college. Her mother works as a maid in a house nearby and Gayathri used to sell cobs of corn at the beach in the evening to scrape together money for her fees. She managed to pay for her first two year at Janaki MGR college but the family struggled to finance the rest of her degree. Through My Daughter Is Precious we crowdfunded Rs. 32000 that she desperately needed to obtain her Bachelor of Business Administration (B.BA) degree. We assigned her a mentor , Shraddha Iyer, to work with in order to plan her next steps.
Gayathri got top marks in her course and won several competitions. She has made an effort to learn English and has good computer skills. Gayathri has grown in self confidence and self esteem since we first met her.
Gayathri’s life is still a struggle. She had to spend most of last year taking care of her mother who suffered a bad fall. Her mother, a domestic worker, was the primary wage earner. Now, Gayathri is keen to find a good job and contribute to her family.
We met Jyoti Kumari and her family at Mandi village near Delhi. Jyoti lives with her younger sister and her parents, Ramjilal, a mistri and Manbhar Devi a housewife. Jyoti is studying in class 12 at a Government school- BN Karoli Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya.
Jyoti has been described as an intelligent, hardworking child by her teachers. She enjoys participating in Nukkad Natak and in singing competitions. She won the first prize in the National Anthem singing competition in class 10th. Jyoti wants to complete her B.Ed and become a teacher but she needs some guidance to reach this level. She feels she needs to improve her English skills and computer skills to become more capable and confident.
Jyoti’s parents are not educated but they want their daughters to follow their dreams
Nirmala and her family live together in a small house in Sirohi village, Haryana – around an hour away from Delhi. Her family belongs to a community of potters and also owns two buffaloes to supplement their income. Her father had been ill for quite some time and the doctors diagnosed it as possible tuberculosis. As he was unable to work, the burden of supporting the family fell on Nirmala’s mother and older brother.
Nirmala is studying in class 11 and is very athletic . Her dream is to become a police officer. “So many women are treated badly around me and there is no way for me to help now. But if I become a police officer I can make the village safer for everybody.” Nirmala said determinedly. She is being supported by the Laksh Foundation to complete her studies and prepare for the Police Entrance Exam. She is a teacher for class 2 students there as well.
Her sister Bharti is studying for her class 12 exams at the local Government school and hopes to be a teacher.
The community does not support the higher education of girls and are disapproving of girls who don’t get married early. Nirmala and Bharti confessed that they are constantly taunted and questioned when they step out of the home.
Rajvati, their mother, is a feisty talkative woman who has great dreams for her daughters. “Marriage should not be compulsory. I want my daughters to be educated and become independent women with a good character.” she said. She has been the mains source of strength and support for her daughters.
Ranjit, a farmer, and his wife Basanti moved from Jharkhand to a village in Haryana in 2009 with their children. We recently met them and two of their daughters, Anjali and Geeta.
Anjali, a confident 19 year old, works as a teacher at the Laksh Foundation where she also receives lessons in the afternoons. Her younger sister Geeta is studying a B-tech in computer science at a college near their home.
Their parents are determined to support them and have taken out several loans to do so.
Meeting this family was very inspiring as they embodied the idea we support. Despite several challenges financially and pressure from the society, they are keen for their daughters to study further and be economically independant.
“What other people say doesn’t matter, I want my daughters to do well,” said Ranjit.
Meenadevi is twelve years old and her father Ravichandran is a fisherman. They also live in Oorurukuppam, Chennai. Meenadevi studies in class seven at a local public school, Alcott school. She enjoys math and wants to be a (District Magistrate) collector when she grows up.
At first neither of them smiled for a picture as the act of posing was very alien for them. However after receiving the polaroid a small smile crept onto Meenadevi’s face.
“I will always support Meenadevi and do my best to help her.” said her father.
Abhirami is fifteen years old, and thankfully she is able to attend school. Her mother unfortunately passed away a few years ago because of untreated cancer. The family didn’t have enough money to afford good doctors. Abhirami works really hard at science at the local corporation school so that she can study further to become a doctor.
“ I want to help families who can’t afford care so that more people won’t have to undergo the tragedy we did.” -Abhirami.
She lives with her father, Velu, and she has his full support in this endeavor.
Prasad lives in Kolkata and works for the Corporation. His daughter Rinki attends the local school and loves it, she is currently in grade 6. Prasad really wants her to receive a good education and hopes for her to accomplish her goals. In the future, he wants her to do whatever makes her the happiest, and as of now she is interested in being a doctor.
As we entered Korail during this weekend, we spotted a young girl with her father. She was about twelve years old, wearing a bright pink hijab. She seemed downcast and did not look at me. Her father was extremely reluctant to let us take a photograph. They grudgingly posed for us but refused to smile. Their behavior was a huge contrast to that of other enthusiastic fathers and daughters.
“What’s your name?” I asked her in Bangla.
“Jannat,” her father replied for her. Jannat means paradise.
Upon further questioning, I learned that she doesn’t attend school. She goes to a Madrassa, a religious learning center that doesn’t pay much attention to other subjects. When we were done with printing the polaroid, we handed it to them. They still didn’t smile. The father walked away. I asked Jannat about her favourite subject and she murmured “Arabic” and hurried away, eyes fixed on the ground.
I wonder what is going to happen to Jannat. Would she be scolded for talking to me? Would she ever attend college? What did her father want for her? She was almost my age, but our lives were so different.
“It was the day of the Bangladesh- New Zeland world cup match and the people in Korail were watching it intently. Eleven-year-old Lakhi was dressed in her country’s colors to show her support. She and her father Alangir, a security guard, were thrilled with the idea of a picture of the two of them. She attends the local school and enjoys it immensely, both of them love spending time together.
Bulbul is the only child of Prem, who is a mistry doing odd jobs. They live in Tollygunge area in Kolkata. Bulbul goes to Class 1 in the local primary school. She is still not sure of what she wants to become when she grows up. Prem is keen on supporting her education and allowing Bulbul to follow her dreams.