This week, to commemorate the International Day of the Girl Child , each of WomenStrong International’s Consortium members interviewed one or more adolescent girls about her school, her daily challenges and her dreams for the future. Each story we received reflects the many hurdles faced by young girls living in poverty. But each one also sheds light on how education can empower young girls to dream of a better future.
10-year-old B. Maladevi is one of the hundreds of girls participating in Dhan Foundation’s EMPOWER: WomenStrong Madurai program, supported by WomenStrong International. In her interview, Maladevi talked about the kinds of challenges she faces as a young girl in a large southern Indian city and how, despite the hardships of poverty and the epidemic of alcoholism, she still has big plans.
Here is Maladevi, and below is her story.
Tell us about yourself and your family.
My name is B. Maladevi, studying 8th standard in RC Middle School in Thideer Nagar at Madurai. My father name is Mr. Balamurugan who is an auto driver and mother is Ms. Mahalakshmi who is a flower vendor. I have one elder sister studying 10th standard and one younger brother at home. I go to the school by walk along with my friends in this area.
What do you love most about going to school?
I enjoy going school since having many friends and like to play games in the classroom itself while the teacher teaches us and going outside. Playing through running and roaming around the classroom is highly enjoyable for me. I am interested to observe the class while teachers teach us. I like education and studying in school.
What is your favorite class, and why?
Science is the interested subject for me. I like the way in which my science teacher teach me. I enjoys during her class. She does the exhibition for more understanding of students and also enables us to do further. Moreover she keenly observes each student and enquires if anybody looks sad or dull. She made us to tell the reason and encourage us to come out from the problem. She tells some suggestions and ready to support if any help is needed even at family level.
What is the biggest challenge facing you today, and how does going to school help you face it?
An often quarrel between my mummy and daddy is a regular one. If any such event happens at home, beating children is the final agenda in that event especially I gets more. My mother has much attachment with my sister and brother. My father loves me much. When he went to police station day before yesterday he said that I keep my life for my second daughter, she is the one thinking of family situation and adhere it. When I express the family situation with my teacher she guides me to concentrate on my future and ambition, quarrel between mummy and daddy is a temporary one, they will be together in happy moments.
How will your life be different from your mother’s?
My neighbours always say that you should attain good position in the society, not like your mother as flower vendor. She struggle lot in the life. I would like to become police women. If my ambition is not fulfilled, I will fulfill my dream through my children. The school gives me knowledge and wisdom to attain my dreams. Normally I am not so active in the class. My teacher advise me to take keen observation in the classes, she motivates me through bringing my family situation in front of me.
How do you think going to school will make a difference in your life?
The school is a good platform to learn more things and get all exposure. I expressed the activities in Kalanjiam Self Help Groups and adolescent groups to my school friends. I told my friends the importance of wearing slippers while going outside for avoiding hookworm and then they realized the importance and promised to follow the same. My teacher also interested to visit my girls group once. I showed the photos of my dance programme which was held in Adolescent Girls’ Convention to my teachers, they appreciated me and wished for big success in our life.
What do you imagine your life will be like at age 40?
At 40, I would be a millionaire. My life would be better than my mother; definitely I would not go for flower vending. The quarrel would not be there between me and my husband. If my delayed in going for vending my father get angry on mother. He often drinks, every one hour he runs to liquor shop. Recently my uncle (my father’s brother-in-law) expired due to alcohol. After that incident my father drinks more and often says I want to go along with his brother-in-law. At present almost all fathers in the society are drinkers. Many children are affected due to this problem. If I become the police, I try to change the scenario towards liquor-free society. I will try for changing the drinking habit of my father, not only in my home and at every household it should happen. The gender equity is seen in few families, would be in all families.
My dream society would be with happy, quarrel free and peaceful.
WomenStrong International, Dhan Foundation and all WSI Consortium members and NGO partners are pulling for Maladevi and for ALL girls worldwide, that they might see their plans and dreams come true!
On this International Day of the Girl Child, WomenStrong International celebrates the remarkable resilience and determination of girls worldwide. Follow the “Latest Stories” at [womenstrong.org], for more Day of the Girl coverage.