Huneda with grandmother, her greatest supporter
By Vidya Kulkarni
The Manch is a forum of school girls, inspired by the animation series “Meena”, produced by UNICEF to promote the value and rights of the girl child.
Neatly placed in a corner of Huneda’s house in Zari village of Parbhani district in Maharashtra is a collection of over 150 books. She proudly calls them her ‘Meena Library’.
A garbage bin prominent in her courtyard, urges people to use it and never ever litter around. This is Huneda’s ‘Meena waste bin’.
These are just glimpses of the activities of a 12 year old, since she took charge as the head of a Meena Manch. Huneda Kazi, a Class VII student, leads a 15-member Meena Manch group. The Manch is a forum of school girls, inspired by the animation series “Meena”, produced by UNICEF to promote the value and rights of the girl child. Such forums, set up in all public schools are engaged in socially meaningful activities within their community.
School teachers, Nazeem Ansari and Mehrunnisa Khan, have taken special efforts towards activating and shaping the Meena Manch. Their encouragement and guidance is a vital force for the girl’s forum.
Recently the school teachers from Zari entrusted a very challenging task to the group. They asked Meena Manch members to think of ways to bring their out-of-school friends back to school. A number of school girls were irregular in their attendance and almost on the verge of dropping out while some had already dropped out.
The teachers explain, “When we ask parents to send their daughters to school, they invariably think we are doing it as part of our duty. Somewhere we fall short of convincing them. On the contrary, Meena Manch members are girls of their daughter’s age, whom they cannot easily dispel. We accompany Meena Manch members and do not expect them to shoulder all responsibility.”
Meena Manch identified 8 irregular or out-of-school girls in their village. “We visited parents to persuade them to send their daughters to school again. The parents listened to us patiently and also shared their problems with us. Then our teachers helped us to discuss possible alternatives with them. All parents were very cooperative,” recounts Huneda.
Huneda with school teachers
Not everyone agreed at once. But the team was persistent. Their members visited the girls frequently and offered assistance ranging from help in studies to providing educational material. The Meena Manch members even raised small funds from their pocket money to buy note books and pens for the drop-out girls.
Younger siblings of two girls were admitted to a child care center in the village, allowing the latter to attend school and Meena Manch was finally able to bring all eight girls back to school. They were warmly greeted by the school and their names were announced on the school board. They are happy to be back.
Meena Manch is also helping shape the personalities of its members. “Involvement in Meena Manch has taught me a lot,” admits Huneda. “Earlier I was shy and never participated in debates and competitions.” Now she feels more confident, and willingly participates in competitions whenever she gets a chance. Huneda is also fond of screen printing and mehendi drawing that she has learnt at Meena Manch.
With such active and passionate members, it is no wonder that Zari Meena Manch has been selected as the best group in the district.