This inspiring news comes to us from Bihar, India.
For a rank outsider, the sight of girls from the village of Jamsaut going to study in their local school might be a common sight. But Sudha Verghese has taken a long and arduous journey in her battle to educate the girls from one of the most marginalized and impoverished communities in Bihar. Her efforts are indeed commendable and exceptional given the opposition and hardships that she has had to face.
Sudha Verghese happens to be a Padma Shri award winner and people know her as Sister Sudha. Her struggles have not been easy and she has persevered over the course of the last five decades. Not only has she struggled to give herself a better life but she has stood up to the establishment to ensure a better life to others too. For the last 20 years, Sister Sudha has had one thing in mind. She was determined to reach out to the girls of the Musahar community in Bihar so that the light of education could fall on them. Nari Gunjan is the name of her organization and it is an NGO with over 50 centers. More than 1500 girls are enrolled here and the organization is devoted to empowering the marginalized women of Bihar.
Sister Sudha was only 16 years old when she arrived at Patna’s Notre Dame Academy along with other nuns who were working for the Roman Catholic School. Being born and brought up in Kerala, the language was a bit of an impediment and her family did not approve of her choice to come to Bihar.
Sudha was sensitive to the misery of the poor people in Bihar and it disturbed her to a great extent. She decided that she would fight for the betterment of the marginalized sections of the community. But she had to face a lot of opposition and even received death threats prompting her to change her residence more than once.
Sister Sudha says, “I was unaware about the evils of the caste system and the miserable state of poor in Bihar. In the last five decades that I have spent here, I have grown as a person. I have overcome my fears. There were days and nights when I feared that I could be killed at any moment. But then the realization dawned upon me that I can’t fear to lose my life to some goons who don’t own my life. God has given me this life.”
With the aid of UNICEF, Sister Sudha is progressing in her battle to include girls who have faced decades of exclusion. She is setting up a girl’s hostel in a building provided by the government where Musahar girls will stay while they pursue higher education. For her selfless service and bravery in the face of danger, Sister Sudha was awarded the Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian award in 2006.
Image source: AchhiKhabre