This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Youth Ki Awaaz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Dreams In A Piggy Bank

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

By Usha Rani Das:

She spends her evenings collecting alms. Her only companions are her two little sisters – Soma, who is just a few months old and sleeps a lot, and Guddu who is about three years old and has the most beautiful smile on earth. Her big dream is to buy a piggy bank and collect enough money to buy a new dress for herself and her two sisters.


She is eight years old. She lives at Haldia in a small house with mud walls, thatched roof and cloth curtains as doors. It is nowhere near to the palace her elder brother dreams of living in someday; nonetheless, this is the heaven she calls her home. Her mother works as a maid in the houses of the township. Sometimes she takes her daughters to work, sometimes they are left all by themselves throughout the day. Her two small sisters spend the day playing and loitering around but she says she goes to school. Although when I asked her the alphabets, all she could manage to remember was this, “A-E-C-M!” Well, off course she has a name – Nazina.

She calls me Didi (elder sister). When she comes to me to ask for alms, I often invite her to join our evening soirees and have a little chat with us. She accepts them eagerly. Partly because she likes us maybe, but mostly because she loves riding our bikes and playing with our mobiles. For this, she even comes by herself to join us without asking for alms. Her daily income varies from day to day. Some days, when her luck favors her, she earns around 100 bucks or so. But these earnings don’t come easy to her. She faces a lot of questions about her family, her schooling, her purpose which she answers with silence and smiles. These are accompanied by a lot of denials and harsh scolding too from her alms givers. Still, she carries on with a smile as if she has become immune to all these insults, as if to collect alms is her only desperate way to stay alive in this world of grown-ups.

I asked her once what her dreams are. She replied, “I will hide some of my money from my mother every day and buy a piggy bank. There I will collect enough money to buy new dress for myself and my two sisters (Translated from Bengali to English)”. She said this with a glowing face, her eyes sparkling with the grandeur of her dreams. Her words expressed her innocent pain she has to face every day when she hands over all her day’s hard work to her mother, saving nothing for herself.

I was actually very happy when she told me she goes to school every day and takes tuition too. But this was a bare lie. I learned the actual truth from her sister, Guddu, that Nazina has quit school a long while before. The reason is her teacher’s beatings which she had to bear almost every day till it became unbearable and she quit it. It was also from her that I learned another bitter truth about her father. He left her mother a year ago to never come back. Though Guddu went to stay with her father at first but the pangs of loss of motherly love pricked her heart too much and she returned to the safety and warmth of her mother’s embrace.

Her mother struggles hard to feed four mouths. Her children are fed twice a day, sometimes only once, with a handful of rice and onion and water. She can’t even afford a side curry to go with the rice always. They never complain. They say it is enough. If it is enough then why does a toddler of just three years old wander around all alone asking for alms to somehow manage five bucks to be able to buy a handful of puffed rice to satisfy her hunger, that too at 8 PM in the night? She is not always lucky to earn those five bucks and has to return home empty handed; has a glassful of water as her dinner for that day and goes to sleep, not to weave new dreams for the world but simply because she was too tired of her day’s hard work to stay awake- tired of the excruciating pain of hunger. When they say “It is still enough” with a smile on their wearied, shrunken face I am reminded of the callous political definitions of poverty currently on news.

These children are the burning symbol of the nakedness of our society, the narrow-mindedness of this patriarchal society, the hazards of illiteracy and the shamelessness of the crippled education system of the country. They are the symbol of the ruthless punishment imposed upon them by this unruly society, their crime- they are poor. They are the symbol of the mockery thrown at them pitilessly by the sly politicians.

I end this article with a hope that someday their silence will get a voice, a voice of protest. A voice to be heard by the deaf and the dumb.

You must be to comment.
  1. Raj

    A nice poignant article about the personal story of a poor person. And yet you managed to bring patriarchy here instead of address the real problems that cause poverty.

  2. Kavya Vidyarthi

    A very insightful article about an encounter with this little girl. More than making people sympathize it is making us realize how we have failed as citizens and how the country has failed to be a democracy. I personally appreciate the approach of the article and my heart goes out to Her dreams in a piggy bank.

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By Sara Sharma

By Vaishnavi Gond

By Survivors Against TB

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below