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This recess belonged to the future

© UNICEF/India/2007
Suryamani, the environmentalist from Jharkhand

Girl Stars shine in Parliament

By Augustine Veliath

New Delhi May 08 : When a volatile and turbulent  House of the People (Lok Sabha) adjourn for lunch where does the Speaker go?

As the heat on the discussions on “fake encounters” subsided on May 08, the Speaker, Somnath Chatterjee and his team of senior officials  decided to invest their time in listening to 12 genuine women achievers otherwise known as Girl Stars.

Selected by UNICEF with the help of Going to School, a non profit organization involved in education, they had come to Delhi from four of India’s poorest states, twelve of India’s poorest communities.

Once their homes were the poorest too. But not any more, because as “girl stars” they took their destiny into their hands. They have a message to other girls (and boys too) “if we did it, you can do it too”. 

The women achievers who dared - all in their twenties - shared their secrets of success with the Speaker and his senior team, consisting of  Prema Cariappa M.P. the Convenor of the Parliamentary Forum for Children, P.D.T Achary, the Secretary General of Lok Sabha,  Ms T. Kumar, the Principal Secretary to the Speaker and Bhasker Ghosh, the distinguished  communication advisor.

The Girl Stars lived up to their name. They were bold, articulate and outright inspirational in their answers.

“Are you a part of a non governmental organization?” the Speaker asked Suryamani, the environmental activist from the tribal state of Jharkhand.  “No I am part of a people’s movement” was the reply. It was not difficult to guess who was leading that movement.
“I hated Mathematics in school” said Kiran from Patna who only made it to class nine. “But today I tell every one it is your arithmetic that will keep you in business.”  She should know. She runs many businesses in the capital of Bihar. “My husband is a little shy”, she confided in the Speaker. “But he is a great support to me and my mother-in-law means the world to me”, she said. “Never, never neglect education”, she added.

© UNICEF/India/2007
The Girls Stars pose happily with ministers and MPs. In the centre is Dr. A. Ramadoss (in white), Minister of Health, and to his right Mr. Oscar Fernandes, and Dr. Prema Cariappa, Convenor of the Forum (in orange saree)

“You must learn to turn your adversities into advantages” said Anuradha the medical student from Jodhpur. “ Never mind the polio, I intend to become a neuro-surgeon, she confided in the Speaker. “You will be”, said Mr Chatterjee, “one of the best nuero-surgeons in the country”. “ Help comes when you seek it”, Anuradha was confident.

“I was the first girl to study and teach computer in my home town in Babina near Jhansi” that was Sandhya Sherring from Uttar Pradesh. “Now because of me more girls want to learn computers. Since girls come boys do not want to be left behind. For a great future send girls to school”, she added

“When you are on your way up your relations, friends and neighbors  will discourage you. But when you reach the top they will lavish you with praise. The secret of success is not being affected by either.” Anita Kushwaha, the bee keeper from Muzaffarpur has yet another secret to share.

“Supervising men is not difficult. What is important is to be useful and helpful to people”, Shabnam Aara the loan manager from Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh says. She supervises seven men as Branch manager.

“Dream and never lose hope, that is the ultimate formula of success.” Jyoti Rose Tirkey, the radio and television announcer and the very popular folk artist from Lohardagga in Jarkhand  has this advise for other young people. “Keep learning. Education, and education alone is the key”. Jyoti is the only girl star who has traveled abroad.

In listening to inspirational stories of the Girl Stars, the Speaker and his team were honoring a new tradition of the Indian Parliament, that of listening to children and young people of India. 

In every session, as advised by the Speaker, the Parliamentary Forum on Children and UNICEF  facilitate a visit of children and young people from different parts of the country to the Lok Sabha, the 552 strong lower house of Indian Parliament.

The young people once in the capital, watch the proceedings of the House, interact with the Speaker in his chamber are interviewed by the Lok Sabha Channel. 

 “This was my education” said the Speaker as his “session with the future India” was adjourned, till the next group of young people arrive in Delhi.  That will be the next session of parliament.

 

 

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