A Rising Star
Bhubneshwari is committed to the development of all children in the village. She is highly respectful to village elders, faithful to her friends and trustworthy. Working for the good of the community, especially for children, is her passion.
This is what villagers see in a 16-year-old girl who comes from an illiterate and economically disadvantaged family in rural Orissa, India.
It’s a long way from where she was just nine years ago.
Bhubneshwari, who lives with her parents, brother and grandmother, grew up in a remote village and belongs to a low-status caste. Though she wanted to study, her father, a day laborer and the family’s only bread winner, struggled to get regular work most of the time and could not afford her education.
“There were times when we did not even have rice to eat,” Bhubneshwari remembers. But hope arrived in the form of Bhubneshwari’s enrollment into ChildFund’s programs in 2001. Within two years, she was linked with a sponsor, whose support allowed her to return to school. “I was very grateful to my sponsor for giving me the opportunity to have an education,” she says.
Her family members also benefitted through other ChildFund programs in the community. Bhubneshwari’s mother, Santoshi, became a member of the village Self Help Group for women and secured a loan that she used to start a business providing local cottage industries with bamboo products. The family also attended various training programs on sanitation, reproductive and child health and malaria prevention. These and other learning opportunities helped them grow their understanding of their own health, educational and economic needs.
Bhubneshwari’s father has now taken on the responsibility for marketing the bamboo products and has been networking with local industries to expand the family business. The economic condition of the family has improved substantially, so much so that younger brother Guptesvar also has returned to school.
Bhubneshwari has become active in the ChildFund-supported children’s club named “Ugratara” (rising star) in her village. She has participated in several of the club’s activities and organized fun events, summer and winter camps, trainings on children’s rights and protection, competitions and issue-based rallies that have enhanced her knowledge and skills. She feels confident now in her ability to clearly distinguish right from wrong and to make informed decisions throughout her life.
ChildFund gives youths the opportunity to engage in leadership activities and build self-confidence that extends into their professional and personal lives, helping them become leaders and advocates in the community.
Taking this to heart, Bhubneshwari has worked to get all the female children in the village into education. “Most parents in the village don’t take interest in educating their girls,” she says, “and often young girls are married at a very early age.”
She and the children’s club recently convinced the father of two girls, Gunnipatra and Geeta, to allow them to go to school. Club members reminded parents that education is a right of all children and parents should encourage their children in that direction. The club also brought authorities’ attention to the issue of children being hit in school by teachers, and to the reasons children drop out of school or are withdrawn by their parents.
After completing her schooling, Bhubneshwari says that she would like to be a community development worker. She notes that ChildFund has made it possible for her to touch and improve the lives of many other children in need, and she would like carry that forward.
Ill health kept Bhubneshwari away from her board examinations last year, but she is confident that this year she will do well and pass them all. Meanwhile, she works as a peer educator in her village.
Her mother has happily watched her daughter’s progress: “We have changed our family position with the support and encouragement of the sponsor, and Bhubneshwari now has a new dimension to her life.”