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

Tara: A Guiding Star In The Lives Of Little Children

More from Souparno

Atarwa village, Singrauli District, MP

Supported by a vibrant Self Help Group and with an undying spirit to bring change, a single woman in a remote village is effectively bringing new ways of engagement with pre-primary school children.

The Beginning

Shy and quiet, Tara joined the Self Help Group (SHG) mobilised by PRADAN nearly a decade back on the advice of her sister-in-law. She was newly married and a stranger in the village of Atarwa. The SHG provided her a platform to express herself and to know other women like her. Being the only literate member in the group, she taught her fellow women to sign their names and also introduced them to letters and numbers.

“It was my mission to ensure that all are able to sign and not give thumb impressions anymore. They should do basic calculations and count their savings on their own”, she says.

One day, SHG member, Santa chirped, “You should also teach our children in Anganwadi (pre-primary school) what you teach us”

However, the Anganwadi centre was always closed with no regular staff. Tara applied for the post of Anganwadi worker and started working with children below the age of 5 years. The existing space, near an open well, was not conducive for the centre. So, she negotiated with the school and got a makeshift arrangement there, thus, marking the start of her journey as a change maker in the lives of children in her village.

The Tragedy

Tara was thrown into an abyss in November 2014 when her husband died untimely. She was left alone with 4 daughters; the youngest was just a year old. She was shattered and her spirit broke. How could she raise them without their father? For weeks, she hid from the world unable to comprehend the change in her life.

The Undying Spirit

The women of her SHG stood firm with her. This solidarity could withstand any tragedy.

“For more than a month I could not even think of stepping out of the house. My daughters would ask for their father. The support I received from the women of my SHG at that point in time, was of immensely meaningful to me. It gave me confidence. I realised that if I withdraw, the children will suffer. I opened the Anganwadi centre once again.”

But, this time, there was a backlash. The fact that a young widow was going out of the house to work was akin to breaking all social mores of the area. The sisterhood of the group and an empathetic father-in-law helped her weather this storm.

Tara took up the Anganwadi work with renewed zest and her young daughters accompanied her to the centre as well. Every child’s birthday was celebrated, competitions were organised and children were given little rewards to cherish. The routine health check-ups and preventive measures were all done regularly.

In the schools in that area, even 3rd or 4th standard student failed to recognise alphabets or numbers adequately. In fact, identifying colours or shapes was also equally difficult for them. Tara decided to teach these skills in her Anganwadi with rigour, to equip them with knowledge necessary to navigate school with ease.

“Anganwadi can help the children learn alphabets and other basic aspects of education much faster and effectively. I honour the statement ‘Anganwadi shala-poorva shiksha ke neev hai’ (Anganwadi is the pre-school foundation of education)”, says Tara proudly.

Winds of Change

Many parents were simply indifferent to sending their children to Anganwadis. Tara, initially, had to go from door to door bringing children to the centre. Today, about 25 children visit the centre regularly. In many cases, their parents drop them there.

The momentum that Tara had built also spread to other villages. SHG members started engaging with officials to get their Anganwadis operational on a regular basis.

Seeing the effectiveness of her centre, Anganwadi instructors visit her to identify ways to improve learning outcomes and create a more conducive environment for all-round physical and mental development of children.

“Nothing could have been possible if I had not been a part of the SHG and learnt different methods of engaging with people. It’s from there that I learnt how to engage with people better. Skills that I learnt from my SHG trainings helped me to conduct more interactive and entertaining sessions for children. I want my Anganwadi to be a model for entire MP”, Tara says with a confident smile.

You must be to comment.

More from Souparno

Similar Posts

By Akshay Sonawane

By Charkha features

By shakeel ahmad

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