Fakira Rout

Acts of Prarthana are just not prayers, but a pack of actions too. When ten children of Chandahandi village had decided not to go to school for fear of studies, 15-year-old Prarthana Mishra got concerned. Since she lives in the same village, she decided to meet them all personally and counseled them about the importance of education in life. As a result, all the ten students those who had been thinking of dropping out of school, now got convinced with her words and returned to school.

In other occasions while four child-marriages were about to take place in the village, she could protest against it and with the support of the Anganwadi Worker stop them all. Such acts of Prarthana are known in the village and people admire her for it.

During the COVID-19 locked down period she didn’t sit down idle, but spoke to the villagers about how to maintain proper health and hygiene, and the importance of adhering to physical distancing. She also helped the Anganwadi Worker in distributing the rations to the villagers during then.

Prarthana’s parents died of an unknown disease when she was a toddler. A widow having a son took care of her and she grew up accepting the widow as her mother. Though the mother receives widow’s pension, since it’s not enough she also works as a daily wage labourer to support the family.

Prarthana studies in Class-X, and has been attending the ‘ADVIKA’ sessions that takes place every Saturday. She also convinces other village adolescents to attend ‘ADVIKA’ sessions regularly. During the ‘ADVIKA’ sessions they teach the village girls about how the old practice of child marriage is against the law and has to be abolished. Eloping is also not a good thing as it affects education. Health and hygiene issues during menstruation, child rights, education, and empowerment are discussed, and these are lessons which empower every girl.

Being a ‘Sakhi’ herself, Prarthana provides counselling to parents and school dropout children. Prarthana accompanies school teachers and Anganwadi Workers during home visits to provide counselling the parents to send their children to school regularly.

Spreading the message that trees are beneficial for us, Prarthana and her friends planted fruit trees in their village during a plantation drive in 2023. “The ADVIKA sessions have changed my life; it has helped me to learn different laws and know the rules formed by the government”, Prarthana expresses her satisfaction.

She has thanked ActionAid Association, UNICEF and the Nabarangpur District Administration for providing all necessary support in her endeavour. She is being felicitated at the State Level Sakhi-Saheli Sammelan recently held at Puri on 15th December, 2023 being jointly organised by Women and Child Development Department, Government of Odisha, UNICEF and ActionAid Association for her leadership and contribution for the society.

(The Views expressed in this article are of the author bearing no resemblance to the views of the Media Outlet)