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Stories of Impact [July 2017]

Rebecca Pape on

Meet Subhadra, future leader. 

In partnership with Splash, MiiR's 25th water project is implementing clean water, hygiene education and sanitation improvements in 10 residential and day-boarding schools in Kolkata, India, immediately benefitting some 1,965 children and thousands more in future years. 

 

The residential school system was started by the local government in 2012 to serve urban, homeless youth. Often these children are from extremely poor households or are orphaned. Many have also suffered abuse.

 

These schools not only act as education centers, but also serve as protection systems for youth, especially girls like Subhadra. A tenth grader, Subhadra started attending the Behala Balika Vidyapith residential school in Kolkata this year after her mother could not afford her education expenses. She hails from the interiors of Contai (also known as Kanthi) in West Bengal. 

 

Subhadra's mother is a government welfare program worker and her father is a truck driver. She has three sisters: the eldest is pursuing her nursing degree, her middle sister is in twelfth grade and the youngest is in second grade. Subhadra and her sisters have had a difficult childhood. Her father is an alcoholic and has been abusive, making it hard for them to continue their studies.

During her free time, Subhadra enjoys playing Kabaddi. Singing is also very close to her heart and she sings at school functions whenever she gets a chance. While her favorite subject is history, ultimately Subhadra aims to be a police officer to curb violence against women, like the violence she has witnessed her mother endure. She dreams of working hard for her family and building a home for her mother, who has struggled all her life.

Despite these distractions, Subhadra is a quick learner and is very responsible with the roles assigned to her. Her engagement as the Assistant Prime Minister of the Splash Hygiene Club at her school has been instrumental to her educational development and provided her with an avenue to develop leadership skills. Subhadra and the other students meet on a regular basis to discuss how to improve the hygiene conditions in the school and regularly conduct cleaning parties.

[Above, a Splash poster used in schools in India to encourage positive hygiene behaviors, as promoted by hygiene club members like Subhadra.]

 

Subhadra feels that the school has progressed a lot in terms of health and hygiene. The corridors and staircases are cleaner. There are more dustbins in the school and children do not litter the toilets and the classrooms like before. Under her leadership, the club has grown and divided into seven groups. Each group takes up a task each day. During weekends, they also clean the playground and the surroundings of the school.

With support from MiiR, Subhadra has not only gained access to clean water, hands and toilets, but she has also gained valuable leadership skills.

Featured photo credit: Gavin Gough