Fiza: Living up to her name

Even though the birth and acceptance of a girl child is welcome in Mewat, unequal power relations and oppressive ideologies restrain girls in living dignified lives and hinder their future potential. A victim of this power struggle is a young girl named Fiza (English translation: wind) from village Mandikhera in Nagina block of district Mewat, Haryana, a district that ranks low on almost all development indices except gender ratio.

After having passed her grade twelve exams in 2016, Fiza wished to pursue her higher studies. But her parents did not agree. Her family decided to have her married soon after completing school, a common practice in Mewat.

The spark in Fiza’s eyes did not move her family. But she did not give up hope. She continued to look for opportunities around her. The new Internet literacy center opening up in her village provided her with a new beginning.

Fiza started attending the Internet literacy and life skills education classes conducted in partnership with CAF Oracle called Bridging the Internet literacy gap and Promoting Life Skills Education among Rural Youth in Mewat. The project bridges the awareness gap between rural and urban children and youth, improves their participation in governance, and builds confidence by promoting Internet literacy and life skills education. The project is carried out in two centers with boys and girls running in Mandhikhera and Bhadas villages of Nagina Block in Mewat.

The excitement in Fiza’s life knew no bounds. Interactive sessions on life skills conducted in these centers increased her awareness about rights and responsibilities as a citizen and good governance. The centers bring boys and girls together, developing a positive peer culture where they can share their experiences and develop camaraderie, which is often missing in their lives. In no time, Fiza acquired knowledge and developed a positive self-esteem. As her self-confidence gradually increased, she felt capable to make her own decisions about her life.

Taking the friendly route

Fiza realized that she did not want to get married at such a young age. She wanted to continue her education. Attending sessions on goal setting and preparing strategies to plan for future during the life skills program gave her the courage to talk to her family about her wishes. Unlike many families in Mewat where only male members call the shots, Fiza’s grandmother was a respected figure whose decision was given weight. She approached her grandmother and mother to convince them that she was not ready for marriage and wanted to study further. After repeated efforts of persuasion by Fiza, her grandmother and mother agreed. They in turn talked to her father and uncle. Fiza’s efforts reaped results as she gained the consent of all family members in support of her decision. Her father recently enrolled her in ITI classes in the computer trade. Fiza has a promising new direction in her life.

Classes on Internet literacy and life skills education have given girls hope for a better future and their dreams have a new boost and direction. The classes have inspired girls to take the path of education and create a new identity for themselves. Fiza’s unique quest inspires others to follow suit.

(Malvika Khitha is Assistant Program Leader, Strengthening Village-Level Institutions at S M Sehgal Foundation. The author can be reached at m.khitha@smsfoundation.org)