Today in India marks the start of Diwali, a new year for many in the country. Each new year brings new beginnings, and so today we bring you the story of one women in Andhra Pradesh who has dedicated her life to helping girls in her community find theirs.
For Ms. Prameela, helping girls and women overcome obstacles has always been a part of her everyday life. As an urban health worker for many years, she helped pregnant women and young mothers adopt a healthy lifestyle, but says that her work as a social mobilizer for our Girls’ Education program in the Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh is her greatest challenge yet.
“The mindset of parents who believe that girls should be kept at home and not educated is one of the biggest hurdles in the development of our society,” she says. “We have to systematically work at rooting this evil out.”
Patient and determined, Ms. Prameela works closely with school administration and village residents to build awareness around the consequences of child labor and early marriage. Her daily routine involves trips to the villages of Venkatapuram and Malkapuram to visit the girls she works with and check on their attendance and extracurricular participation. As a mentor for each girl, she says, “the key to charting a successful path for a girl is by transferring the decision-making ability to the girl herself.”
Ms. Prameela’s perseverance has already begun to pay off. At the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year, 32% of girls in her district were below passing grades. That number has since been reduced to 4%, with eight of the girls having received an A+.
Despite the widespread success among her students, though, Ms. Prameela says there is still much work to be done. She recalls how one girl, Rangamma, was married off at just seven years old to a cousin. “After she got married, it was a big blow to her self esteem,” she says, adding that the girl became the target of teasing from her classmates and started missing school.
“I realized that being married was preventing her from getting equal opportunities and decided to give her special attention,” she shares. “I met with her parents, grandfather and husband many a times to convince them to let Rangamma continue her studies.”
Eventually, Rangamma’s family relented and allowed her to return to school, but their fear of being caught by the police for marrying her so young causes her attendance to fluctuate. “I try to tell her family that education is the only way they can move ahead in life,” says Ms. Prameela. “Rangamma has her own dreams for her future and I hope she is able to achieve them.”