Reema Kumari is 21 years of age and an aspiring singer. Coming from a modest background, Reema has three elder sisters and two younger brothers. She was 17 years of age when she became a peer educator for her Adolescent Girls’ Group in Ramchanderpur village (block Majhawan, district Mirzapur). Being a peer educator did not just expand Reema’s awareness and knowledge on menstruation-related issues, but also gave her the opportunity to give creative expression to her learnings. An orientation in street theatre taught Reema, and other peer educators, to take socially-relevant messages learnt through GARIMA, to a larger audience. Reema got the opportunity to leave the confines of the village and visit the peer educator interface meetings at the block level. District- level visits were the next step, when she along with other peer educators performed on the several occasions likethe Menstruation Day and World Literacy Day.
An exposure at the state-level through GARIMA events broadened the horizons further. Despite these varied opportunities Reema remained true to her responsibility of being mindful of the welfare of adolescent girls and the the community in her village. One of the challenges that all the girls discussed in the GARIMA group meetings was open bathing and open defecation. She herself had to take her bath in the open, an embarrassing experience for most of the girls, to say the least. In December 2015 Reema wrote a letter to the Gram Pradhan requesting for toilets and bathrooms in the village. Though nothing happened despite the letter, the girls persisted with their demands. With Panchayat elections a new Gram Pradhan took the reins of the village administration.
Pratima Devi (the new Gram Pradhan) was sensitive to the needs of the girls, and attended their meetings whenever requested. An added advantage was that her husband supported her in every possible way to smoothen the administrative process. Having freshly learnt about incinerators, the girls approached the Gram Pradhan to get an incinerator made in the village. She immediately agreed and turned to her husband for technical advice. He took the initiative and designed an incinerator on his own. Now the village has several incinerators. This has addressed the problem of disposal of menstrual absorbents in the village. Reema is persistent with the Gram Pradhan in pushing for construction of community bathrooms and
“Even after the incinerators were made I had to deal with doubtful minds and myths regarding burning of menstrual absorbents. Even my own sister and mother did not spare me the cynicism, but my sound knowledge on the subject muffled, and eventually, silenced the doubtful voices.” -Reema Kumari
toilets. She has been promised that money would be allocated for construction of toilets and bathrooms in the new cycle of fund allocations. Reema has brought the girls together and now they work as a collective, being watchdogs of the community and voicing their concern against any ill practices. Her deepest desires are only two, one to bring change in her village and the other to become a singer. She is leaving no stone unturned in her responsibilities as a peer educator and has pledged to continue the meetings even after GARIMA closes down. Along with this she does fulfil her desire to sing whenever shegets an opportunity. This ability to open up anddisplay her talent as a singer is no mean feat, and a victory for her!