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Celebrating Girl Power

© UNICEF
Navjyoti Neelam Bhandari sharing her dreams

By Vidya Kulkarni

Fourteen year old Pallavi, a Class IX student, dreams of becoming a nurse. However, cultural barriers haunt her, as she is the daughter of a Devdasi (a traditional dancing woman). Devdasis are treated as social outcastes and their children, especially girls, are expected to follow their path. But Pallavi has no intention of getting into this antiquated practice and with her mother’s support continues to pursue her education.

Such stories of courage and determination unfolded at the ‘Navjyoti’ programme organised on 22nd November 2007 in Mumbai. Navjyotis are girls who have dared to dream.

This special award for girls instituted jointly by UNICEF and DD Sahyadri in 2004, is meant to give recognition to their achievements and extend support to fulfill their dreams.

Every year nine girls from various districts in Maharashtra are selected for this prestigious honor.

Said Begur Ramchandra Rao, Project Officer, Education, at UNICEF, “This programme has a lot of impact in the field. Though only nine girls are selected for the award, it has a ripple effect in motivating several other girl children in pursuing their education.” 

This year’s winners include; Rajeela Padvi, Nandurbar, Sana Phatima (Parbhani), Laxmi Gauddas, Chandrapur, Pallavi Waghmare, Sangli, Neelam Bhandari, Mumbai, Vaishali Pendore, Yaotmal, Geeta Yadav, Kolhapur, Amrapali Dhavale, Latur and Jyoti Indurkar, Mumbai.

Celebrities from Mumbai’s film and corporate world were present to offer awards and encourage its recipients.

Specially made audio-visual clips provided a glimpse into the social and family environments of the ‘Navjyoti’ girls and also showed the grave challenges that they overcame.

© UNICEF
Group of Navjyotis

Geeta Yadav comes from a single parent family. Her mother has shouldered all family responsibility and managed to her three children’s education completed. Geeta, who respects her mother immensely, wants to study hotel management.

Sana Phatima from Parbhani comes from an extremely poor family. Being blind, her father is unable to work and the family survives on meager income earned by her mother’s work as a housemaid.

Sana started sharing household responsibility at a very young age. Now she attends full time school and works in the evening. She makes and sells papads and earns Rs.5 every day. Sana, a Class IX student, wants to become a doctor.

Laxmi Gauddas also combines work with her studies. She works as a housemaid to supplement the family income. But that doesn’t stop her from dreaming “mai pilot banana chahti hu, asman chuna chahti hu.” (I want to become a pilot and touch the sky), says Laxmi with twinkling eyes.

Neelam Bhandari and Jyoti Indurkar were both brought up in an orphanage in Mumbai. Her life experiences have taught her to be positive and confident. Neelam says, “Whatever happened in the past is not a matter of concern for me now. I look forward to the future and want to become a social worker.” Jyoti is a nature lover and creative person. She wants to become an interior designer. 

Most expressed that the struggle these girls go through is a laudable reflection of reality. The Navjyoti event as usual succeeded in bringing the shine of girls out of shadows.

 

 

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