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Last Updated: May 20, 2007 - 10:48:48 AM
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'Girl stars' shine - and tell others how to
May 9, 2007 - 4:32:04 PM
'No work is dirty work or can be called a man's or woman's work only. I am proud of doing what I do and support my entire family with my earnings,' Devi said with pride.

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[RxPG] New Delhi, May 9 - One has hit the jackpot in the junk yard, another's life has flowered thanks to the yellow striped honey bees.

Rising from their humble backgrounds and fighting all odds, 14 women stood smiling Wednesday to flag off the pink coloured 'girl stars' trucks that are off to spread the message of their lives and encourage girls to study.

An initiative of Going To School, a non profit organisation, the girl stars project has brought together young women from underprivileged backgrounds who have braved all challenges, completed their education and are living a life of dignity.

Lisa Heydlauff, director of Going to School and the mastermind behind the project, said: 'After travelling for six months in five states - Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan - we picked up these role models whose stories will hopefully inspire young girls to go to school and study.'

Three trucks, carrying posters of the women and portable television sets to run films on them, will be travelling to all the districts of three states, Bihar, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, where the literacy rate of women in particular is extremely low.

All of 18 years, Anita Kumari of Bihar for instance is a beekeeper. An unconventional field, of course, but what all of them have done are no ordinary tales either. From convincing her father to let her go to school, to paying for her studies by taking tuitions, all the way to saving enough money to start her beekeeping business, Anita deserves every bit of the applause that she received while narrating her tale to the audience.

'A lot of people including my family were upset with me first but after I became successful they have started respecting me. I knew things would be difficult for me because I am a girl but I never gave up,' smiled Anita.

Gathered at the Gandhi Smriti in the capital Wednesday were a horde of school children as well who were there to interact with these real life heroes. 'Don't they sting you?' asked Preeti, a student of Deepalaya school.

'They are like us. Only when they feel threatened that the honey which they collect after a lot of hard work might be stolen from them do they sting,' Anita explained.

'Did you ever feel inferior to others because you can't walk properly?' asked another eager student to Anuradha Rathore, another girl star of Rajasthan.

'Never. I contracted polio when I was not even two years old and although that affected my walking, it didn't deter my spirit.

'I sometimes need help from my friends but I have done everything that I wanted to do,' Rathore said confidently.

A medical student, Rathore aims to set up a clinic in her area so that people are more aware about polio and children don't suffer like she has.

Fighting against the traditional society she lived in, Tehseen Bano of Bihar convinced her mother to let her study and is today the hostel warden of Kasturba Gandhi Girls School in her state.

'You must study. That is your weapon to fight all kinds of injustice,' 25-year-old Tehseen told the children.

Wide-eyed and bubbling with questions, the children couldn't stop asking questions.

'Don't you feel odd doing a man's job?' asked Babita to sari clad Kiran Devi, a junkyard dealer of Patna, Bihar.

'No work is dirty work or can be called a man's or woman's work only. I am proud of doing what I do and support my entire family with my earnings,' Devi said with pride.

The project is also supported by Unicef and aims to go to other states after completion of this phase which will span over 30 days.

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