A young girl stands up against a culture. And wins.
Rajkumari, Room to Read Girls' Education Scholar. Image courtesy of Room to Read https://www.roomtoread.org/the-latest/now-this-girl-knows-how-to-handle-a-street-harasser/
Have you had this experience before?
A catcall, a whistle, a random comment about your appearance yelled usually from an open car window or across the street. It may have felt harmless or it may have caused discomfort, anger or fear. In India escalating street harassment is stopping girls from attending school.
In one Indian study 95% of women felt their mobility was limited due to a fear of street sexual harassment. The women also stated they never reported the harassment as they felt it would be fruitless.
This all makes Rajkumari's story even more inspiring.
Rajkumari, a Room to Read-sponsored student, was harassed every day as she made her long journey to school. A boy in a nearby village would wait for her and yell lewd comments as she passed. Unlike most young girls in her village, Rajkumari stood up to the boy, asserted herself and told him she would not tolerate his disrespect.
But he would not stop.
Fortunately, Rajkumari attended life skills classes, a critical part of the Room to Read Girls' Education program, that teaches the girls confidence, how to communicate and advocate for themselves. It focuses on self-respect and pairs them with mentors. Rajkumari shared her challenge with both her mentor and her class.
The mentor and class joined Rajkumari when she went to the home of the harasser to seek his parents’ help in ending the verbal abuse.
Upon arrival, they were refused entry to the house by the harasser’s mother who would not listen to them.
Angry that Rajkumari had visited his home, the verbal threats only worsened.
"You will not even see the front of your school," he told her.
But Rajkumari was determined not to give up. She went to her local school authorities and with the support of the Room to Read staff they went to the village council.
Several members of the village council had participated in the Room to Read Girls' Education community meetings and understood the value of supporting and protecting a girl's education. They took the matter seriously and called a meeting with the boy's family. The parents of the boy reluctantly apologized but the boy was absent from the meeting.
Rajkumari persevered and demanded the boy be punished for his behavior and apologize. The village council gave him only one option.
They required the boy to bow down to Rajkumari in front of the entire village and apologize for his harassment, which he finally did.
Rajkumari's courage and tenacity brought awareness to her village about street harassment and built confidence in her ability to advocate for herself and create positive change for her community.
Our challenge for the week: to be relentless like Rajkumari. Choose one thing that you have been turned down on and are passionate about, then give it a second go.
It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
You can also donate to Room to Read's Girls' Education program to support girls like Rajkumari by clicking here.
Or purchase a pair of Mohala sunglasses. One pair of sunglasses = One week of school in the Room to Read Girls' Education program. Click here.
To Our Dreams,
Now This Girl Knows How to Handle a Street-Harasser. (2015, February 24). Retrieved from https://www.roomtoread.org/the-latest/now-this-girl-knows-how-to-handle-a-street-harasser/