This story was written by Neeraj Gurjar, a young woman from Rajasthan, India. She recently completed the Grassroots Journalism course run by AJWS grantee organization Mahila Jan Adhikar Samiti (MJAS). In August 2022, she attended a girls’ leadership and empowerment workshop led by another AJWS grantee, AMIED, and wrote about her experience. She recently won the Sanjay Ghose Media Award for “digital literacy and empowerment of adolescent girls.”
Today in India, girls have more opportunities than ever before — but in many areas accessing education remains a major struggle. One such area is the Alwar District of Rajasthan. In this rural region, girls face not only social and economic barriers to continuing their education, but also political ones. We salute the girls who are making efforts and trying to complete their education despite these struggles.
Thankfully, they have the support of Alwar Mewat Integrated Education Development (AMIED), an organisation in Alwar that helps girls to realize their dream of education. AMIED and the girls they support are fighting for the rights to education every day. The AMIED team visits the homes of local girls to encourage their parents to agree to allow their daughters to continue their education, and AMIED supports the girls who are not able to deposit their school fees due to their weak economic status.
AMIED’s work is showing major results: until recently, there was not even a single girl in this district pursuing higher education. Today, 264 local girls are attending college.
On August 20 and 21, 2022, I joined a workshop organised by AMIED in Kishangarhbaas in Alwar district, along with 60 local leader girls coming from 25 different villages. These girls met each other with great excitement and happiness. They discussed their dreams about the future, the importance of education and the barriers they face. The facilitator explained to them that “gender does not decide what work we will do.”
I spoke with a few of these girls who are on the path to realizing their dreams — and I will share their stories with you.
Shazia is 23-years-old and today works as a Junior Engineer. Her school education started at the age of 9. Before she began attending school, she grazed her family’s goats and took care of household work. Completing her education was not easy for her, but her spirits were elevated when AMIED began supporting her.
“The society that used to taunt me because I sought an education… the same society today not only praises me but also gives me full respect,” Shazia says. “We girls have to fight even for the smallest of our rights in the society. If we really want to achieve our rights, then we have to continue our struggle — until the time that every single girl achieves the status of education that she wants.”
A lot of girls at the workshop who were inspired by Shazia’s struggle and success vowed to raise their voices to complete their education.
As 24-year-old Zara told the group, “Girls’ education is not given any importance in my village, and this is more or less the same situation in all our families. I had never gone to school — and then with the support from AMIED, I took an admission test and got into sixth grade, and from there completed my school education.”
Wiping her tears, she continued, “I was married at the age of 21 but I never lost touch with AMIED and continued my education. Soon after, my husband died due to some unknown reasons. My in-laws blamed me entirely for his death and rejected me.”
But Zara knew she was meant for more — and AMIED gave her a unique opportunity to continue her studies. Today, Zara is the Coordinator of the Learning Centre run by AMIED. She teaches students from third to sixth grade, and she uses the money earned from teaching to pay for her own higher education. Zara dreams of becoming an administrative officer or a government schoolteacher — and she wants to run a free mentoring center, “so that thousands of girls like me can get support for their education and they are able to prepare for examinations.”
18-year-old Meher had to leave her studies after eighth grade because her family wanted her to get married. With AMIED’s help, she very wisely persuaded her family members to allow her to continue her education — and she recently took 12th grade examinations through an open school. She is eager to continue her education and become a teacher, so that she can help other girls like her to study and move forward.
Many of these girls had similar stories and challenges they needed to overcome in order to access education — and they all refused to give up.
Razia, for example, told us that people would taunt her for wanting to go to school: “Oh, she is going to run away; It is not right for girls to go out and study, they can go astray, or someone could harm them,” she said. But it was as if Razia had stuffed her ears with cotton. She did not pay any heed to such comments and focused to complete her studies. Razia dreams of becoming a police officer.
There are thousands of girls around India like Shazia, Zara, Meher and Razia who are facing, or have faced daunting challenges for their education. At AMIED’s workshop, they spoke openly about one additional challenge: government benefits and scholarships do not reach so many girls who need them the most. They hope the government will one day better support girls to access education on all levels so they can fulfil the flights of their dreams.
After all, education is the only way that we can eliminate the inequalities so prevalent in society, and build a new society where all people have opportunities and can live the lives of their dreams.
About the writer
My name is Neeraj Gurjar and I am 18 years old. I live in the village Hasiyawaas, 20 miles away from the city of Ajmer in Rajasthan, India. I am studying in first year of Bachelor of Arts. I am an active member of Mahila Jan Adhikar Samiti’s (MJAS) adolescent girls group and I completed MJAS’s Grassroots Journalism course in 2021.
I used to dream of becoming an international football player, but I had to spend two years under treatment due to bone cancer and I lost the strength in my legs. I had to stop playing football. Today, I dream of becoming an administrative officer and work for girls’ education and rights. I really enjoy writing.