(Posting a series of success stories from the compilation The Project Why Stories 2000-2016)
Anita’s relationship with Project WHY started in 2002, when she started studying as a young girl studying in Class 3. Her father comes from Bihar and moved to Delhi in the late 1980s to look for education. Due, however, to financial problems, he was forced to start working at the nearby factory at an early age and settled in the Giri Nagar area.
In 2004, with Anita in Class 6, her father, the family’s sole earner, was told that there was no work in the factory and told to take a two month ‘break.’ Whilst her mother had previously devoted her life to running the house, she was forced to begin running a stitching and embroidery service from home. In an effort not to make her family suffer, Anita’s mother combined this income with her life savings to support their lifestyle.
Anita is a glowing example of the opportunities that Project WHY can create. She attended the centre in Girin Nagar until Class 12, and recorded consistent scores of 75-80% throughout her school career. As one of our brightest students, she secured admission to the prestigious Delhi University to do her B-Com in 2012.
Anita returned to us after graduating, wishing to provide the same opportunities to similarly underprivileged children. Her parents were supportive, indeed they knew she was safe with us and did not want her working anywhere else. As one of our oldest and most successful students, we were happy to taker her on as a primary teacher. She then went on to teach some of our brightest secondary students.
In 2015, she came to us with the news that she would have to leave the job, as her parents had found a boy in the village and wished for her to get married. We had no choice but to accept this. Yet, four months later, Anita returned and asked to resume her old post, which we were happy to give her. The boy’s family had demanded a large amount of money as ‘dowry,’ claiming her to be dark in skin, and apparently not sufficiently pretty. Yet Anita, as a product of Project Why, had learned to speak for her rights. She knows her self-worth, beauty and value to society and refused to get married under these conditions. She therefore spoke herself to the family to reject the boy and the forced marriage.
Dowry or Dahej is the payment in cash and/or in kind by the bride’s family to the bridegroom’s family along with the giving away of the bride (called Kanyadaan) in Indian marriage. It runs across all classes and castes. Although Dowry was legally prohibited in 1961, it continues to be prevalent and highly institutionalised. The groom often demands a dowry consisting of a large sum of money, vehicle, house, furniture, and electronics. The dowry system puts great financial burden on the bride’s family
At Project WHY, we pride ourselves in discussing prevalent social issues such as caste, dowry, violence against women and sexual abuse. We believe that we have made our resource persons fully aware of their rights and responsibilities. Anita, at that moment, stood up for her rights and refused to get married on those terms and conditions. “I am as good as any girl on this planet,” she voiced.
Today, Anita is back teaching and continues to value education above all else. Together with her mother, she is funding her brother’s B-Tech from IP University, at a cost of INR 60,000 per year, striving to give him the same opportunities in life that she had. Concurrent to her work as a Secondary teacher, Anita is now pursuing her M-Com. She wants to apply for a Government job, from which she feels she can have an impact on an even wider scale. Yet, always thankful of her roots, she will never stop supporting Project WHY, both through donation and through education.