Sarita's Journey from Hopeless to Hopeful
She is the life of her adolescent group and is the most active member too. She knows all the songs and participates in all the meetings of the group. Thirteen-year-old Sarita Maurya is like any other teenager her age except for the fact that she has been visually impaired since birth.
The third of six sisters and one brother, Sarita is a resident of one of the most remote villages of Balrampur district—Allauddinpur. Her handicap had limited her world to her home and school, where her siblings took her to learn through hearing. Depressed and withdrawn, Sarita wanted to quit her studies and had almost given up on life. Then CARE reached her community through the Join My Village Girls’ Leadership Program. GLP works through adolescent girls’ groups that are formed in each village. The girls discuss and learn interpersonal skills and their rights at these groups through various activities like learning and singing songs, participating in plantation drives in the village and organising a rally to create awareness about girls’ education.
Initially, Sarita refused to join the Khushi adolescent group in her village. “I thought that the group was of no use for me. I never thought I could do anything with my life. I had resigned myself to my fate. Until one day my classmate insisted that I come with her to a meeting. That day changed my life forever,” said Sarita.
“When she joined, she would hardly talk. She would not participate in any group activity. But gradually, with the help of other girls, Sarita came out of her shell. Today, the change is for all to see,” said Arun, the program’s leadership coordinator for this group .
“Earlier, my parents did not allow me to go anywhere even in the village as they were worried about me getting hurt. After joining the group, I visited two nearby villages with my group members --- for a training and a rally organized by the GLP team. It was the very first time I ever left home,” said Sarita. “The trips were a great morale booster for me and my family who now trust me to go around the village on my own,” Sarita added.
“I was even part of a plantation drive in my village. I am no longer an outcast in this village. People’s attitude towards me changed once I started participating in activities,” she says.
Sarita has gone from being depressed and hopeless to being positive and full of excitement about the future.
“I cannot pursue higher studies as my parents can’t take me to any school outside the village. However, I will do something within the village. I’ll ensure my life is not wasted because of my handicap.”
Sarita has also been instrumental in getting other girls in the village to join the adolescent group. One such member is Sarita’s best friend and neighbour Afsana. Though unfortunately Afsana does not go to school, she is a regular at the group meetings. “All the girls in the group go to school and I have now asked my parents to get me enrolled into the village school,” said Afsana.
A member for the last year and a half, Sarita said, “The name of my group is Khushi which means happiness and I want to make sure my attitude and nature justify the name. I no longer feel sorry for myself. The adolescent group made me realize that I may not be like others but I am not less than others either.”