Ruchi Kumari, a Class VIII student from an upper primary school in Gaya, Bihar, is a member of Meena Manch, an educational forum on gender equality and girls’ rights. Ruchi is an active Meena manch member, instilling hope and faith of a brighter future, amongst all her friends and peers. Her evolution into a confident, optimistic and creatively versatile student receives praises from the entire local community.

During CARE India’s recent team visit to Gaya, Ruchi’s confidence was commendable. She enquired about the team member’s name, the things they like and the purpose of their visit. Such organised thinking skills in a girl from a remote village like hers, was a delightful experience for the CARE team.

Ruchi attributed her confidence to one of her previous Meena Manch teachers, who had immense faith in her. The teachers’ encouragement to the girls to be able to express themselves freely and discuss all kinds of issues, is what gives, girls like me, the confidence they need, Ruchi opined.

At the meeting, Ruchi initiated the discussion and requested all fellow students to actively participate. After the initial round of introductions, Ruchi herself conducted the Manch activities. She asked the girls to share some stories, poems, jokes and puzzles with the visiting team. When a few of them shied away, Ruchi sang a beautiful patriotic song and asked others to follow with the Meena Manch song that they sing at all their meetings. When the group became lively, Ruchi asked the girls to share their learnings from Meena Manch. The girls shared how they became self-confident and aware of the importance of washing hands before and after each meal, properly washing vegetables before cooking, having toilets at home, and keeping home and the neighbourhood clean.

Meena Manch is now the favourite activity in school for its 20 members. The comprising students from 6th till 8th are now looking at organising Meena Manch everyday rather than once a week.

Speaking on how the Meena Manch is bringing about positive changes in not only the students but also teachers who are involved in the program, one of the teachers, Smt Chandravati, said, “After attending the training program by CARE India, I could rectify my understanding on gender. I used to believe that girls should not speak loudly and should not be expressive; but this training has challenged my beliefs completely and provided an opportunity to rethink the old social beliefs. I am feeling empowered by knowing so many concepts around leadership”.      

Girls’ Education Program
Partnering with UNICEF, CARE India’s Girls’ Education Program in Bihar is instilling leadership skills in children, especially girls, by revitalizing their learning platform through programs such as Meena Manch, Bal Sansad and a lively morning assembly.  

Seema Rajput