The beginning of a new session, India’s Independence Day and the holy month of Ramdan – there is a lot to celebrate here at Udaan in the Mewat district of the state of Haryana. Mewat has one of the most dismal figures in the country as far as female literacy is concerned. But as I join the celebrations with the girls here, I cannot help but feel great hope and even joy at the way things are shaping up.
The first session of Udaan faced many obstacles and many still remain. Being set up within a community with a unique cultural lineage poses some unique challenges here. The deprivation suffered by women and girls are systematic and structural. The team here at Udaan has had to work very hard to win the trust of the community and keep the parents from taking away their daughters.
And I write for everyone on the JMV team when I write that all our struggles of the past one year have become our strengths now. The JMV team is better equipped and even more determined to reach out to girls in the most neglected households. The commitment of the team and most importantly, the results of the last session have won some, if not many, hearts in the community. No wonder the families that took their girls away last year, under societal pressure, are bringing them back this year with a hope that their daughters will also become like the girls from the outgoing class.
Yes! We are celebrating all this. The enrollment for the new session has begun; some girls have been here for almost two months now. They are particularly happy because today, 14th of August, the camp closes for a week for Eid celebrations. Their excitement is palpable as they await their parents to come pick them up. All the preparations for Eid are done; new clothes and shoes have been bought. In the two months that they have been here, they have learnt how to write their names, count till a hundred and many other small but significant things. One can see how happy and excited they are to show everything they have learnt to their families. We read stories, watched a movie and sang many songs waiting for the parents. Some of the parents even joined us in the all the merriment. Wow! What a day!
And one by one, all the girls left. All that was left was a silent building. I wonder what Udaan is without a group of noisy, naughty girls; nothing but a silent building!