As Anju Verma walked up to receive the BusinessLine Young Changemaker award from former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, her father Rajinder Kumar was busy instructing two young men from the family to click pictures. It was a telling moment.

Hailing from Daulatpur village in Haryana, a State with a highly skewed sex ratio, it has taken Anju years of steady work to break conventions in a patriarchal society.

Speaking at the event, the 16-year-old said: “I come from a village where girls are kept within the four walls of the house. We have no right to step out.”

Anju, though, not only dared to step outside the house, but also managed to bring in change. Her NGO Buland Udaan has managed to enrol over 500 children from the villages of Fatehabad, Hisar and Sirsa in schools. Though taking the first step was not easy, she recalled, she felt compelled to do so.

It began when her classmates at the government school introduced her to their life at home. “Unlike me, their days were not about home and school. They told me they were not free like me. They had to clean and scrub and take care of the livestock,” Anju said. If she had to convince their parents to allow them to study, she had to step outside home, a taboo for girls in her village. But Anju managed to do so. “Those girls, who used to score 33 per cent, now score over 70 per cent,” she added.

Parental support

Anju credited her parents, especially her father, for being the wind beneath her wings.

“He is my hero. He is the one who told me to go live my life,” she told a packed audience. Her NGO has worked to make 70-odd villages of Haryana child labour-free and stalled 12 child marriages.

“I don't have a magic wand. But I believe all of us can work towards bringing about change. We have to strive to change at least one person’s life,” she added.

A class 11 student at Crescent Public School, Anju is in no mood to slow down. “When you manage to admit two children in school, you grow a little greedy. You want to get a 100 more in school,” she said.

social-fb COMMENT NOW