ENLIGHT PUNE

Pune18 Oct, 2021

In 2017, Anu Waghri, 8th class student of a well-known school in Pune, stopped going to school and no amount of persuasion was successful in making her change her decision. In 2019, she expressed her desire to complete basic education without going to formal school. AIC admitted her into NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling). Anu was employed in a beauty parlour to support her mother the only earning member in the family. She left her job after joining NIOS and began interning with AIC as a remedial educator. She was patient, dedicated and soon turned to be an assertive and confident speaker. Her writing skills improved and she was meticulous with updating her books and timely completed the tasks given by her teachers. She also participated actively in the classroom sessions, practiced handwriting, watched self-development videos, and read books. This enhanced her handwriting, vocabulary, and fluency in English speaking. She was also creative, artistic and explored new ways of doing things, especially in developing TLMs. While the NIOS teachers encouraged her, helped her develop her newfound skills, the Enlight project activities helped her to explore newer avenues of learning and self-development.

Archana Kaur belongs to Sikhligar community and like most Sikhligar women she was married off early and became a young mother. When domestic violence became unbearable, she returned to her parents, and with support from AFC- staff Archana filed for divorce. The case prolonged for two years and later the court advised her to return to her husband where she was once again subjected to domestic violence.

They tried to fatally injure her following the birth of the second girl child and it was then she decided to return to her parents once for all. Archana had studied till 9th class and wanted to complete 10th class which she did in flying colours! She enrolled both her children in the education programme and joined as a Community Volunteer in AFC. As a volunteer, she engaged with women and girls of her community and motivated them to become empowered through education. The Sikhligar community is very patriarchal and still restrict women and girl children from education or venturing out from the house for any purpose.

Archana soon became a model for others, her story of grit was inspirational. She began her crusade to change the mindset of her community towards girls education. She encouraged parents to enroll their daughters in school, educate and empower them. This was not an easy task but Archana was not the one to submit meekly to any challenge. Despite the challenges she faced from her community, she never hesitated in helping them especially in accessing entitlements and resolving disputes with government departments. She developed a good relationship with government officials in various departments and this helped in resolving disputes and issues amicably. She was invited by the All India Radio (AIR) to share about her struggle as a single mother to procure statutory documents (birth certificate, ration card, community certificate) for her children. All these struggles have turned the young Archana truly empowered and she is now determined to empower other women and girls.

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