a girl sewing
Saima empowers girls
Saima is just 16 years old, but really she should have quit school and got married years ago. Instead she’s studying and fighting for girls to be allowed independence and to be treated with respect.

My dad was first asked by another family if he wanted to marry me off when I was 13. It was followed by lots of other proposals. But my dad kept saying no. He explained that there will be no wedding until I’ve been in education for 15 years, and that means that he thinks I need to have finished university studies first.

“The reason he thinks this is because I’ve always told him everything I learned about girls’ rights in Ashok’s Girls Club. Dad let me explain to him, and he has understood. I love him for that! The knowledge and confidence I’ve gained through Ashok’s organization IHMP have given me the chance to keep studying and try and achieve my dreams. My greatest dream is to one day be a doctor.”

a girl showing a dress

Wages pay for school books and bus tickets: “I charge between 100 and 200 rupees per garment, depending on the type of work,” says Saima.

Independent girls

“I’m now leading the Girls Club in our village. As a peer leader, IHMP has given me the chance to go on courses on how to use a tablet, and now I’m teaching other girls about how to search for information online and I can access loads of news and knowledge in this way, so that us girls know what’s happening in society and in the world.

“Being able to use a tablet boosts confidence and also we get treated with greater respect. People in the village listen to us now. It wasn’t like that before. Then it was just boys and men who were informed and learned things. Knowledge was withheld from girls. And then it was easy for men to take advantage of girls and trick them. Girls became the property of men, and they could do what they liked with them. Now that we have knowledge, we are both able, and have the confidence, to express our own opinions and then it’s not so easy to be taken advantage of. We get more respect. We become more independent.”

a group of girls watching a tablet

Saima teaches the girls how to use a tablet and access the internet.

Earning an income

“Ashok’s organization also helped me go on a course in sewing, with a certificate showing I completed the course. I wanted to go on the course because I like clothes, but also to know that I have vocational training. That’s really important for a girl because then we can earn our own money, which makes us more independent and on an equal level with men.

“I now make clothes to order. Customers come to me with the fabric and I make the clothes. I charge between 100 and 200 rupees, depending on the type of work. The money means I can pay for my school books and bus tickets to get to school. I can also contribute a little to my family, and that feels really good.”


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