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Sajida takes wing

© UNICEF/ 2008
Sajida spends time with her pets

Valsad district, Gujarat: Sajida, a 12 year-old Muslim give, lives with her two brothers and two sisters in Gundlav village of Valsad District, Gujarat. Her father, a businessman and mother a housewife, are not educated. Sajida loves animals and has chicken, goats, ducks and pigeons as pets.

Sajida’s father did not want her to study because she is a girl, but her good performance in school compelled him to allow her to continue her education. Her teachers love her as she attends school regularly, is hard working and sincere.

One day Sajida’s teacher narrated Meena stories to the class and then selected Sajida as the Manch Motivator. Sajida smiles and says “I want to become like Meena - a happy girl, and respect my parents the way Meena respects hers.”Sajida recalls her past when she was different, less self assured, less confident. That was when she was not aware of  the Meena Manch.

The Meena Manch (Girls’ Club)  is a forum of school girls inspired by the animation series “Meena”, produced by UNICEF to promote the rights of the girl child. Manches (Clubs) are set up in upper primary schools and their activities are aimed at ensuring that girls enroll in school at the right age, attend school regularly, and complete primary education. They also help build awareness on issues related to education, health and nutrition, and water and sanitation at the community level.

After becoming a Meena Manch member, Sajida was able to help children return to school. One day her friend Sohana, a Grade Five student, stopped coming to school because she thought girls cannot earn money. Sajida went to her home and counselled her, telling her that girls can also become independent by working. She explained to her the advantages of education and Sohana came back to school. Sajida is happy that she could influence her friend to return.

Sajida’s dream is to work for the welfare of the family and country. She is confident, she is energetic, she is inspired, and she believes she will fulfill her dream.
As the festival of Eid drew near, Sajida wanted new clothes for the special day. Her father bought clothes for all the family members, but not for her. She was upset. Digging into the pocket money she had saved, she bought herself a dress. She felt empowered. 

Sajida feels that she has changed. Earlier, when the neighbourhood people threw garbage near her home, it did not bother her. After listening to Meena’s stories, she now sweeps her home’s surroundings and keeps them clean; she understands and respects her parents and has learned how to manage money.

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