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"I tell them (the children) to keep moving forward and work for scholarships like I did, and how the computer and English lessons I got to learn have helped my future. That’s what I want for young girls everywhere."

When She Leads: Nirashi, Puja, Sumitra

March 16, 2022

Reading Time: 9 minutes

This interview is part of our When She Leads: Shadhika Scholar collection. Learn more.

Nirashi, Puja, and Sumitra are Shadhika Scholars from our Partner Site Jabala in Jharkhand. They were interviewed by Director of Operations Kendra Nicolai and Digital Media Coordinator Vanita Ganesh.

Hi everyone! Can you introduce yourself to our Shadhika readers?

Namaste, my name is Puja Ray and I’m a resident of Jharkhand. I’ve been with Jabala group for three years and I am a Shadhika Scholar. I am a semester three student at Ranishwar college in Jharkhand.

Hello, my name is Nirashi Kumari Ray and I’m a semester one student at MG College in Jharkhand. I am a Shadhika Scholar and also an educator with Jabala’s Siksha Sahachari Group.

Hello, my name is Sumitra Ray and I’m from Jharkhand. I’m a semester three Geography Honors student at MG College, Ranishwar. I’ve been with the Jabala group for three years and I am also a Shadhika Scholar.

The past 2 years have been very difficult for students. What has your experience been like, studying during a pandemic?

Puja: When Jharkhand went into lockdown in 2020, schools and colleges were shut, so girls’ education took a step back. Boys and young children had to leave to take up jobs and their education suffered as well and no one was happy. Girls were continuously under pressure to get married by their parents and this is why girls haven’t been able to move forward. This is why we at Jabala with our Jabala Leaders, got together to make sure girls who dropped out of school have been re-admitted.

Nirashi: We faced many problems due to the lockdown, but the biggest challenge was with education because we weren’t able to study. Not everyone had phones or wasn’t able to attend online classes. Some of the biggest problems for us were that we would have to do chores at home throughout the day, we couldn’t meet each other and so couldn’t share our problems with each other due to the lockdown and we missed each other. Another challenge during the lockdown was instances of child marriage which caused a lot of harm, and any progress made took a step back.  

Clockwise: Puja in action with a temperature gun during ration distribution during lockdown; Puja & NIrashi on their way to college; Sumitra, Puja, & Somali posing before a COVID Health Camp; Shadhika leaders with Baitali from Jabala; Sumitra & Puja at a COVID vaccination awareness campaign with the BDO;
Sumitra & Nirashi preparing for a COVID health camp. Image credit: Jabala.

Sumitra: When we conducted home visits to the villages, we got to know that young students were missing out on education. So we thought why not do something to teach them from our homes and help them move forward? From our home visits, we heard that most young girls and boys weren’t able to go to school and because of money problems, parents were not able to send their children for coaching and tutoring too. So as Nirashi had mentioned she is an educator with the Siksha Sahachari Group (Friends for Education Group) with other Jabala Leader girls, we thought we are home and we have studied so far, so why not teach the young children? This also included girls from class 7 and class 8 as well as younger children who had to drop out, and we spoke about how they can continue their education so there isn’t a gap till they rejoin school.

What are some wins you want to celebrate from last year?   

Puja
: The biggest win was that when the lockdown was imposed, we leaders could go door-to-door and conduct home visits. We saw many people were sick and we got their COVID tests done. Initially, they were scared to take the tests and vaccines because of taboos, but we took them to the hospital and clinics. We also helped them register themselves for the COVID vaccine. Word spread that ”Puja is helping people register, go to her for help.” This is my proud moment. 

Nirashi: My proudest moment was that we could teach the children part of the Siksha Sahachari Group and that during the lockdown no child’s education was left behind, and even the youngest student’s classroom needs were taken care of.  

Nirashi’s class (Siksha Sahachari Group) in Kituri Village. Image credit: Jabala

Sumitra: Firstly when we would conduct home visits and saw people falling sick (due to COVID), we wanted to do something and help them. We approached the Jabala Leaders and spoke about this and saw how many people didn’t know about the COVID symptoms or care. During the door-to-door visits, we saw how families where people lost jobs were facing financial issues during the lockdown, and ran out of food and ration to feed themselves and their young children. We organized a health camp in the village to spread awareness about precautions and to help get medicines and care. We also organized ration drives. These efforts were appreciated by the community members. Arranging these camps and initiatives was my proud moment.

Shadhika Scholars from Partner Organization Jabala at a health camp. Image credit: Jabala

What was the one important lesson you learned about yourself in the last year?   

Sumitra: After the lockdown when we weren’t able to study properly, go anywhere to meet our friends or teachers, or attend online classes regularly, we realized the importance of education and to continue education even during lockdowns. 

Nirashi: Because of lockdowns because we couldn’t meet friends and had to attend online classes using phones. We saw how important education is and saw how education helps us stand on our own legs. The help we got from Shadhika to continue with computer classes and English coaching helped boost our confidence and grow more. 

Puja: When the lockdowns were imposed, we really thought that our education was done with because schools and colleges were closed and we had to stay home. Our mothers started asking us to get married and leave education behind. So when our leaders from Jabala asked if we wanted to continue studying, we couldn’t believe that we could progress this much, that we could pursue our BA degree, learn English or use the computer. We used to be ashamed at how the younger students had better English knowledge than we did. But the Jabala leaders helped instill confidence in ourselves to attend and learn more.

Puja helping girls in a blood group determination camp. Image credit: Jabala.

Who inspired you to keep going and moving through the last 2 years?

Puja: It is Jabala Group and Shadhika who supported us in the first place and always inspired us to grow more. We also got to meet the Block Development Officer (BDO), who belongs to a Tribal Community and inspired and motivated us to study more.

Sumitra & Puja at a COVID vaccination awareness campaign with the Block Development Officer (BDO). Image credit: Jabala.

Sumitra: When we got a chance to meet the BDO, we got to talk about the work done in the village during COVID lockdowns. She praised and inspired us to do more. We also met the District Commissioner (DC) through a webinar who also praised the work we did and encouraged us to study hard and grow more so we can be independent. 

Nirashi: Firstly, we got a lot of motivation from Jabala and Shadhika teams to study further, and my family who always wish for me to do the best and study well. The meeting with the DC and the BDO ma’am was also very inspirational, they asked us to study hard and move forward. 

What would you like to tell scholars who are starting college this year?


Nirashi: To the scholars joining this year, I truly hope they get the support I got and I want to tell them to join computer classes and English coaching like I did and also learn more than we did! 

Puja: People in the village tell children “Look how Puja has gotten the scholarship after studying so much, you should also be like her.” I tell them ( the children) to keep moving forward and make progress and work for scholarships like I did, and how the computer and English lessons I got to learn have helped my future. That’s what I want for young girls everywhere.

Sumitra: My wish for new Scholars is that they study more and move ahead in life. I hope they are also able to work hard and join the computer class we have joined. Study hard and continue higher education, get into college. I aspire for my siblings to continue studying as well.

Puja and Sumitra during basic computer learning. Image credit: Jabala

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