Vaishali district, Bihar: The Meena Manch (Girls’ Club) established in Islampur school of Goraul block in Vaishali district is unique. The first decision in the first meeting of the Meena Manch was to enroll all out-of-school children. One year later the Meena Manch has 68 members, who are bold and confident. Apart from meeting regularly, the members perform street drama on different Meena stories for community mobilization.
The Meena 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. Manches (Clubs) are set up in upper primary schools, and their activities include ensuring that girls enroll in school at the right age, attend school regularly, and complete primary education. They also help build awareness on issues related to education, health and nutrition, and water and sanitation at the community level.
Kanchan Kumari, Meena Manch leader narrated the story of how the Meena Manch members prevented child marriage of their 12 year-old friend Anju Kumari.
When Anju’s school attendance became irregular, the Meena Manch members visited her house and learned about her impending marriage. Anju was very upset. Meena Manch members discussed the problem with her father. They explained to him that marriage before 18 years is a crime and early marriage will cause damage to her health. Her father agreed to delay the marriage but two months later he revived the proposal once again. On hearing this, the Meena Manch members and mothers of all Meena Manch members sat in front of Anju’s house till her father promised to postpone her marriage until she completed 18 years.
12 year-old Ruby Kumari says that Meena Manch has taught her many good things. Earlier she was afraid to ask questions but now she is confident and can ask questions like Meena does in the stories.
Anju Kumari is shy but confident. Giggling she said that when her father had decided to get her married, she was unhappy because she wanted to study. When Meena Manch members approached her father, she gained the courage to speak and persuade him to delay her marriage. She is happy that she is back in school.
13 year-old Arti Kumari and 12 year-old Preeti Kumari were irregular at school as they helped their mother in domestic chores but now thanks to the efforts of the Meena Manch they enjoy coming to school regularly.
10 year-old Usha says she waits eagerly for the weekly meetings of Meena Manch. She very proudly announces that she can read all the Meena story books.