Lunkaransar: Girls from the desert villages in Rajasthan, which infamous for female foeticide and child marriages, are benefiting, thanks to residential education camps. From would be child brides, they are now looking at financial independence.
It is a leap of faith for the 19-yr-old, Pankaj Rathore. In something that would have been unthinkable for the Bikaner girl till a decade ago, a constable with the Rajasthan Armed Constabulary, she would have ended up as a child bride if it weren't for the non-government trust Urmul Setu.
The trust runs residential educational camps for girls who are either dropouts or don't have access to schools in the border villages of Rajasthan. Today, Class 12 pass-out Pankaj Rathore, is looking forward to a life in uniform. Pankaj Rathore, RAC Constable, Nokha tehsil, Bikaner, said, "I will be polite to people, will never indulge in corruption and will set an example for others."
Noorjahan is another example. One of her five differently-abled siblings, she now looks forward to a brighter future. "I want to become financially independent by learning stitching so that I can look after my family and myself on my own," Noorjahan said.
'Urmul' began its residential camps in the desert districts with poor social and gender indicators in 1998. What began as a measure to educate under-privileged girls, ended up as a social awakening of sorts. Rameshwar, coordinator, Urmul Setu, Lunkaransar, said, "Earlier they would marry off girls between 10 to 12 years. Thankfully, now it's gone up to 18 to 20 years."
Maghi was married off at 10. But today her transformation into a nurse is an inspiration for others. "Every one thought that camps are for cattle and what's unique about this one? But then they were told that this is for girls to study and pass class five in six months," she said.
For the girls in the desert villages around Lunkaransar, times are changing. Armed with degrees and vocational training, not only are they reclaiming their independence, they are also chasing their dreams and scripting a change.