By Arun Anand
Babina, Jhansi, UP : Unperturbed by the hot May sun, Rekha Sahu, a primary school teacher in Khajuraho Bujurg village, in the Babina block of Jhansi district, was excited because her long wait to have a glimpse of the Girl Stars was going to end soon.
Her students, about one hundred of them, were more thrilled as they wanted to know how girls from ordinary backgrounds like themselves could make it so big in life. And then the moment for which everyone was waiting finally arrived.
A pink colourfully postered truck arrived with a team escorted by the village pradhan and invited everyone in the village, especially the women and the girls, to attend the screening of three 'interesting' and 'inspiring' films that could change their lives.
The films, about seven minutes each, are being screened in several villages as part of the ‘Girl Stars’ project of UNICEF, currently underway in UP, Rajasthan and Bihar.
In UP, this mobile theatre is travelling to around 64 villages in four districts - Bahraich, Varanasi, Jhansi and Lalitpur. The films depict the real life stories of Shabnam, Madhuri and Sandhya. All three belong to UP.
They are being projected as role models to inspire the rural folk, especially the girsl and women. The impact has been quite positive as common people, cutting across age and social barriers, in villages under Babina block were thrilled with the movies.
“There is a great awareness about the education of girls in this area but somehow it still remains confined to basic literacy levels. The social taboos are still strong and hardly 10 percent of the girls make it to the high school, and an even lesser number to the college," says Anil Kumar Srivastava, coordinator at Block Resource Centre, a government establishment that looks after the basic education institutions at the block level in this state.
Srivastava says, "There is a need to create awareness and inspire people here to ensure that girls at least complete their school education. We need to have some role models for this purpose and the 'Girl Stars' project is a great way to motivate them.”
In Bijauli village, couple of miles away from Khajuraho Khurd, five-year-old Shobha, who studies in Class V announced during the public address held after the screening of the films, “I want to become like them. I want to be a doctor. I will study very hard and will not stop going to school come what may."
Sonu, seven, who belonged to the same village, told a crowd of about 100, “Like Madhuri Didi, who ran a shop as a child to study, if my family is not ready to pay for my studies, I will earn my way through and become a pilot when I grow up."
Similarly, Shobha said that she particularly liked the way Sandhya made it big in life. "I want to learn computers like Sandhya didi and I am sure I will be able to do that."
Dayanand Verma, 39, who works in a factory, said he had four children and he wanted them to study and achieve something in life. Verma and many others in the village were particularly impressed by the short film on Sandhya’s life.
She runs a computer-training centre for lower and middle-income groups in the Babina block itself. “We never knew that girls living just a few miles away from our villages have crossed milestones. This, of course, makes us believe that our children can also do it.”
The mood of the villagers was so upbeat that an approaching dust storm could not dampen their spirits. They made the show sound like war cry, "padle bitiya, likh le bitiya, akshar-akshar chun le bitiya." (Daughter – read, write and chose your words.)
They took a vow to make their children study and enable them enter the galaxy of the ‘Girl Stars’.