In areas where lives are the darkest for the females, education shines like a bright light. Like moths to a flame, women who seek to get educated get attracted to the dream of going to a high school, then to college and earning a degree in life. But has it ever been that easy?
The story of Mansi Pradhan shows us how difficult it is. And it also shows us how we can, against all odds, achieve whatever we really want.
Mansi was born to a very poor family, father Godabarish Pradhan who was a farmer and mother, Hemalata Pradhan who was a housewife in Odisha’s Ayatapur village. In her village, education for women was a taboo. Rarely did any girl make it to high school.
When she completed middle school, there was immense pressure on her to quit her education and as we imagine, to coax her into becoming a ‘good wife’. But Mansi was firm that she wanted to study further. There was another hurdle – there were no high schools in her village or in the nearby ones.
None of these hurdles deterred her. She walked 15kms every day causing a rough terrain to get to school. Soon, she became the first woman to pass high school examinations in her entire village! That was not the end of it.
In an interview with The YP Foundation, she said, “I had this one ambition since I was a child. The village I was born in, I had observed that the women would always be very troubled, and there was a lot of domestic violence. These ladies were just not getting the respect they deserved at home; because of this, they would be resigned to being the food-makers, to being the baby-makers.”
College was the next step. Her family shifted to Puri for her education. After that, all was not rosy. The meagre income that the family earned through farming was not enough to sustain them. Her mother was diagnosed with cancer when she was in the second year of L.L.B and her father was bed-ridden. And the responsibility came on Mansi’s shoulders. Then too, she did not shudder. She took out a solution and without sacrificing her ambitions, started her own industry, a small printing press.
Mansi went on to get a B.A. degree in Economics, an M.A. in Odia literature along with having a L.L.B. degree. But unlike most of us, who would stop after we get what we want, Mansi did not. She began thinking about other women who faced the same situation like her and wanted to help them.
She founded OYSS in 1984. OYSS is an organisation that was initially set up to help girls get higher education to grow them into future leaders. Now OYSS is involved in a plethora of activities for women empowerment. OYSS organises self-defence workshops, legal awareness camps, vocational training camps and a lot more.
In 2009, Mansi launched a nationwide campaign to end violence against women titled, ‘Honour for Women National Campaign’. They have four demands from all state governments across India:
1. Complete clamp down on liquor trade.
2. Self-defence training for women as part of educational curriculum.
3. Special protection force for women security in every district.
4. Fast-track court and special investigating & prosecuting wing for crime against women in every district.
Mansi is also a popular author and a poetess. She has also been awarded the ‘Stri Shakti Puraskar’. honoured by the former President of India, Pranab Mukherjee. How inspiring is her journey so far?
Preview Photo: odishasuntimes.com