Progress is when women in villages grow. In a heartening move, a 21-year-old — Zainab Khan — was awarded with the Rani Laxmibai Award by chief minister Akhilesh Yadav at the Lok Bhawan, Lucknow, earlier this week. The young girl has been honoured for becoming the first girl from her village Chandora in Meerut to complete her schooling. Not just that, Zainab is now soon going to be a post-graduate as she is studying in the final year of MA in Political Science at Meerut’s Ismail National Mahila College.

“The school in our village was only till class VIII. Most girls used to drop out after that. But I knew I had to break societal norms. The closest senior secondary school from my home was 80 km away. I travelled 160 km every day with my father. All that pain and hard work has only been cemented with this recognition. This is by far the happiest day of my life,” Zainab told TOI.

Along with the award, the state government has also granted Zainab a sum of one lakh rupees in recognition of her achievement in the face of adversities.

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Zainab’s story is one to be spread across as she comes from a place where children as young as seven years old are put into the menial work of manufacturing sports goods like stitching footballs. Zainab voluntarily took up education to be a better way forward. She has even been recognised by the Bachpan Bachao Andolan programme led by the Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi.

Under this programme, she became the head of Chandora’s bal panchayat. In her capacity as the head, she has been able to convince 12 other girls to start studying as opposed to making footballs. She and her fellow Bachpan Bachao Andolan members visit each and every household in the villageand encourage parents to send their children to schools.

“I will continue working in the field of education. I will use this money to help in the education of girls who cannot afford the education. Money should not be a hindrance, and I’ll try to do my best to make it easier for as many girls as possible. Every family must educate their children, without any gender bias,” says Zainab.

She also teaches in the village primary school and wants to invest her money into getting more girls to join school and study.

Picture credit- Hindi Samachar