My name is Singari*, and I am 15, and from a small colony about 20 minutes walk from the centre of Hisar town, in the northern state of Haryana, India. I’m the eldest; I’ve got two smaller siblings. Things are tough at home. My parents are both alcoholics. They are casual labourers, but, also alcoholics. I remember my mum used to tell me that by Standard 10 she would marry me off. But I refused. I’ve been refusing ever since. I said to her: I want to study. I want to go to school. Now I’m in Standard 7, I’ve got this far already. But my parents don’t pay for my education – they spend every rupee we have on alcohol. Seema, one of my friends and also a member of our Girls’ Action Group, - her mum pays my school fees.
All the girls help me – they’ve all been around my house, trying to persuade my parents to support me more and contribute towards my life, but nothing has worked. So one thing I’ve done myself is to open my own bank account. You know the government gives girls like us a little bit of money and I didn’t want it to go to my parents – so now I have my own account, and I can make sure it gets spent in the right way. But, yes, things at home are pretty bad. My younger sister has now moved out of the house completely and gone to live with another girl’s parents, because things are that bad. Of course there are things that I love: one of them is my arts and crafts. The last thing I made was a boat made out of ice lolly sticks. A normal day for me would look like…waking up at 4, doing chores, then going to school at 7.30 on my bike. I finish at around 2.30, so I’m home by 3, when I do a bit of housework, maybe watch TV, then start to cook and serve the dinner, then once that’s done I study at night.
I love being a girl. I think anything is possible, I think I can do anything. When I was younger my mum used to send me to the bazaar to get food, and I’d complain saying that’s a boy’s job! But now it’s ok. I can do anything a boy can do. Yes there are some old-fashioned people but lots of others are beginning to accept that girls are equal to boys and can achieve what they do. In fact, they achieve more.Childreach International has been working in the important district town of Hisar since 2011, in partnership with the largest employer in the town, Jindal Steel. While the town has enjoyed rapid economic growth, the
status of girls and women remains extremely low. The project works through two main areas of activity. The first is the coordination of the work of the Social Activists – married women, almost all of whom have never worked before, who we train to become community activists to go door-to-door speaking to pregnant women, to advise and empower them. The second is the strengthening and support of the first ever Girls’
Action Group in this area, of which Singari is a member, aims to tackle the low value of girls – by empowering strong and vocal teenage girls in the community, who can spread messages of girls’ education and their potential to their peers and to adults, getting children who’ve dropped out back into school, thus fundamentally altering attitudes towards girls, and proving to the community that girls have real value.