Creating impact together with the child and adolescent reporters of Jharkhand
Stepping up engagement with children and adolescents, UNICEF is helping children in advocating for their rights at the highest level
In the quiet village of Ormanjhi, young Dipika Kumari, an eighth grader studying at the Government Middle School in Ormanjhi Block, nurtured aspirations that soared sky high. Her dream was simple yet bold - to serve her nation by joining the Indian Army.
Dipika’s world revolved around her studies and her family. She was her parents’ third and youngest child. With his modest earnings as a barber, her father struggled to keep up with the educational needs of all three children. Despite these challenges, Dipika remained fervently focused on her studies. The school, to her, was a happy place where her aspirations found wings to fly.
A turning point appeared when Dipika joined the Adolescent Reporters Programme, a unique initiative jointly implemented by UNICEF Jharkhand and its partner NGO, the Nav Bharat Jagriti Kendra. The initiative aims to promote awareness about child rights, especially in promoting girls’ education and preventing child marriage, among others, through its work with over 12,000 children and adolescents aged 10-16 years in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand.
One fine day, she discussed her dreams and concerns with her elder sister, who informed her about the Savitribai Phule Kishori Samridhhi Yojna, a government scheme offering financial assistance of Rs. 40,000 instalments to all girls from grade eight to continue and complete their education. Excitedly, she shared the news with her friends, but her hopes dimmed on learning that the scheme only supported the first two children in a family.
Destiny seemed to have had plans when Dipika was selected to meet the Chief Minister of Jharkhand on World Children’s Day 2023. Every year, UNICEF in Jharkhand facilitates a meeting of child reporters with the Chief Minister, who holds the state’s highest political office. The interaction provides children with a platform and an opportunity to communicate their issues and concerns directly, share their stories of success, and potentially influence policy.
Dipika discovered the power of education to achieve her dreams but also felt discouraged thinking about the financial burden this brings for her father.
As fortune would have it, the Chief Minister inquired about the scheme Dipika expected to bring her hope. Mustering courage and hope, she voiced her concern to the chief minister, explaining that as the third child, she did not stand a chance to benefit from the scheme as it was limited to only the first two children.
Standing shoulder to shoulder with her fellow child reporters, Dipika narrated how financial constraints challenge many girls and their aspirations. Another child reporter, Vidya Kumari, stood by Dipika, supporting her in sharing their collective struggles.
The Chief Minister, moved by their plight, resolved to make a change. He made a visionary move by announcing that all unmarried girls attending government schools would now receive support from the scheme irrespective of the number of children in the family.
Dipika’s heart swelled with joy! Her story had sparked a transformation. The modification in the scheme brought renewed hope for her and countless other girls striving against financial odds to pursue their education. This was a great example of how initiatives supported by UNICEF to promote children’s participation and voices can help influence policy changes through advocacy and communication and make a significant difference.
With this newfound opportunity, Dipika felt renewed optimism, knowing that her dreams were now within reach and that her story had contributed to opening doors for other girls who faced similar constraints.
The Adolescent Reporters Program taught Dipika the power of raising her voice for change. Her story, a testament to resilience and the transformative influence of education, echoed hope for every girl aspiring to dream big, regardless of financial barriers.