|Durga from Chandrapur barely had time for school after caring for siblings and carrying out household chores, yet determination helped her become a top student at Dilasagram Social Centre.|
MAHARASHTRA, India, 8 February 2005 - Communities in Maharashtra, in the western and central parts of India, are coming together to give special recognition to girls who manage to stay in school against all odds.
Last November, UNICEF and the local television station ‘Doordarshan Sahaydri’ organized a ceremony to showcase both the struggles and successes of girls who want to go to school. Nine girls, all from remote districts were selected to receive an award. The event was so successful that there are plans now to repeat it annually as part of an ongoing campaign to change social attitudes by celebrating girls who have transformed their dreams of staying in school into reality.
About this year’s award
This year’s award recipients were chosen with help from several village planning partners. The girls selected all faced and overcame significant challenges.
Durga, a girl from Chandrapur, was so busy looking after her six siblings and completing household chores that she barely had time to go to school. Yet her determination to get an education led her to attend classes at the Dilasagram Social Centre, and she quickly became one of the top students.
Durga and the other award recipients attended a ceremony at the Doordarshan studios in Mumbai, where they were congratulated for their impressive efforts by nine of Maharashtra’s most prominent women, including the award-winning actress Raveena Tandon, Dr. Indira Hinduja, and Schools Director Grace Pinto.
The girls honoured at the ceremony felt that it was an enormous boost to be congratulated by such successful women. One of them, Eliza Lobo, said: “I also want to grow up to be able to achieve my goals like these famous women have.”
‘There is nothing that girls can’t do’
The event aimed to increase awareness about the importance of girls’ education and the critical role of the community in supporting girls who want to go to school. Speaking at the event, the Director of the Doorsdarshan Sahaydri station, Mukesh Sharma, said, “Girls are a divine source of power in India. They are the foundation of our society and it is our duty to educate them.”
UNICEF Maharastra State Representative Gopinath Menon added, “Girls are a precious resource of intellectual and physical ability – a resource that can help to further society, but girls can only prove their worth if they are allowed to go to school. If images of girls in India are to change and the importance of educating girls is to be highlighted, then such people from society will have to play a key role.”
Many girls in India still face discrimination and are not encouraged to get an education. But as teenager Wazida Karigar proclaimed at the ceremony, “There is nothing that girls can’t do. We can achieve anything we want to.”