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Balrampur Diaries: Part 1

The Azadi Team has been working in the Upper Primary Schools in the district of Balrampur, for the past month to make schools menstruation-friendly. During their time in 25 schools, they have engaged with communities, teachers, and students in their mission to understand how to enhance the current system of basic education for addressing the critical issues of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and menstrual hygiene management (MHM).

The following is a compilation of their diaries from the field. It will be followed by more entries from the field.

Entry 1: You go girl!

The Azadi Team has learned that Neha Singh, from class 8th, is contesting the school elections for Prime Minister of the Bal Sansad at the Upper Primary School, Ajabnagar. Neha is the daughter of an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) in Ajabnagar, Balrampur. If elected Prime Minister, Neha confidently says that she would ensure that her school achieves WASH star ratings this year.

Entry 2: Of earthquakes and courage in the land of nowhere

The Azadi team is at Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya in Shridattganj, Balrampur. In its remote location, this KGBV is in Utraula Tehsil, far away from centre of Balrampur city. The school campus is surrounded by sugarcane fields and forest, no sight of civilization for three kilometers.

Students left the school building after the first tremor of the earthquake, and stayed outside all day. No authorities called to check if everyone was safe. Three iron willed teachers, Shireen Hasan, Richa Shukla and Reena Dubey, took care of 97 girls on the campus.

Normalcy resumed after 6 pm, and we started the focus group discussion. Another tremor was felt right when we were in the middle of the KAP study. Everybody left the building immediately. We have decided to recommence the KAP study tomorrow morning.

Entry 3: Of shakes, scuttles and triumph in the land of nowhere

As the Azadi team departs from KGBV Shridattganj today, they share a small reflection of an all-embracing culture experienced in the land of nowhere. Several tremors were felt in the course of the day and the students had to be ushered in and out every time.

In the evening, all schools, including the KGBVs, received calls from the District Inspector of Schools (DIOS) instructing them to remain shut for two days. The warden of the student hostel, Mrs. Shireen Hasan, is in the process of contacting parents and guardians so that all the students return home safely today.

The foundations of the KGBV Shridattganj remain strong and resilient, for its heroes stand as nemesis to adversity! We salute the courage and tenacity of the mighty custodians of the school:Mrs. Shireen Hasan, Mrs. Reena Dubey, Mrs. Richa Shukla, Aarti didi, Shridevi didi, and all 97 enduring girls!

Entry 4: Bordering on

Touchdown! About 16 kilometers away from Nepal, Team Azadi is spending the weekend at the residential Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, Junglegaon, in Pachperwa block. This school was established in Junglegaon with the objective of providing education to girls of the Tharu tribe, from Semrahava, Udargodva, Imiliakodar and Bhusahar Puchwa.

Photos and content written by Ritika Ramasuri.

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