This is the story of Geeta – the lone crusader against child marriage in a community that believed Girls are to be married off at a young age! However, Geeta didn’t listen and kept at it, till the villagers changed this century-old belief of theirs. This is the story of her triumph against all odds and also the teachers of her school – Satya Bharti Elementary School at Baazigar Basti, Balial in Rajasthan.
Geeta and her brothers attended the school which was some distance away from her home. She was a bright student right from the start. However, apart from poverty, the local community had another menace – substance abuse. This resulted in a steadily increasing rate of crime – especially crimes against women. Many parents, including Geeta’s, pondered over whether they should withdraw their daughters from school, to avoid unwanted risks. But their solution was that instead of sending their daughters to school, they would rush to marry them off!
But unlike her peers, Geeta did not sit quietly and accept her fate. She revolted against her parents’ decision. Her logic was simple – she wanted to build a bright future for herself, going to school would help with achieving that goal. She had hoped to become a police officer, she was also good at sports. Geeta respected her parents, but she didn’t want to end up like the rest of the community. She wanted to rise above the poverty and struggle for existence, and not be dependent on anyone.
Geeta decided that she couldn’t fight on her own, so she discussed the situation in confidence with her teachers, asking for their help in convincing her parents. Counselling and advice from the teachers and Geeta’s conviction finally made her parents relent, but on condition that Geeta would pursue her school studies for just two years more.
It is often said that keeping the right company can help you grow as a person and in Geeta’s case, it helped her in the fight against the practice of child marriage. The Satya Bharti Schools go beyond education and strive to make students socially aware. Geeta’s school made her realise how regressive the practice of child marriage was, and defined its ills.
An important aspect of the Satya Bharti Elementary School in Balial was its community development campaigns, which formed an integral component of the school curriculum. Her willingness to extend help to other girls like herself gave birth to the idea of running a door-to-door campaign against the practice of child marriage. Geeta’s objective was to start a campaign to help other girls and not let them succumb to pressure from their parents.
The door – to – door campaign aimed to educate the community and help them see beyond their limited ideologies. It takes a woman to educate a family, but now Geeta was proposing to do that for the whole village. She approached her teachers and explained her idea. But when Geeta and her teachers discussed her campaign idea with her parents, they were hesitant. They feared for her safety and didn’t like the idea of her approaching the community on her own. But this fear was soon dismissed and resolved when the teachers stepped up and promised to accompany Geeta on her visits to families.
Initially, when Geeta began her rounds, people in the village didn’t welcome her or even entertain what she was saying. They refused to see the logic in her rationale. Strongly supporting Geeta, the Satya Bharti School teachers also highlighted various government schemes that promised higher education at no cost at all. It meant more opportunities for the entire family, which made perfect sense.
It took a long time but slowly people began to see the logic of what Geeta and her teachers were proposing. For Geeta, encouragement came in the form of a bicycle that her parents bought her, to make travel around the area easier as she continued her campaign. Six long months of toil and hard work finally began to bear sweet fruit. The girls who had quit school began to return to continue their education. The Satya Bharti School program helped Geeta tackle social evil through its tactical teaching methods.
Geeta is now a local hero within her community and a mentor to young girls, but what gives her immense joy is the fact that she can continue going to school. Thanks to the guidance of her teachers, the support from her parents and her own belief in what’s right, she worked hard and didn’t give up until she finally succeeded!
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