Amperi, a 11 year old girl, is getting ready to join her girl friends to collect firewood. She washes her face and uses her shawl as towel to wipe her face. She gets leftover rice less than half of her regular share from the kitchen, takes some salt and chilly and packs it in the shawl tightened around her waist. She runs inside and brings out a big axe which she fixes around her waist held by her shawl.
Filled with excitement she runs to join her friends, looking forward to a day collecting firewood while singing, chatting and playing in the forest. . She is so excited that she is not tired though she just came back from colleting hay for the domestic animals, she goes rushing to to meet her friends. She leaves home with a big smile on her face full of hope for the day ahead.
These girls from ages 8 to 14 were coming down to village from the forest with about 30 to 40 kilograms of wood on their back in a doko. A little girl hardly weighing 30 kilograms carries her own weight or more in firewood everyday, wow!
As they nearedI recognized Amperi and her friends , looking tired and hungry. They left at 9 am in the morning and it’s already 5pm, exact timings of their school.
The school remained closed most of the time, even if it opened there were only two or three teachers, who spent time chatting in the office room. The students of Early Child Development (ECD) in the meantime would be playing the role of teacher and student turn by turn, while the rest just hung around or were playing around. Most of the students were boys and girls were absent. The scenario of the school in Mugu is such that most boys and girls are absent from school.
Amperi, who was already half asleepsleepy, pushed her plate towards her mother asking for more dahl (lentil). But her mother pushed her plate back to her without serving. She understood that she is not going to get any more dahl (lentil) and so, continue eating what was in her plate. . Her family (mother, father, brother, sister in law, niece, Amperi and I ) were having dinner together at 8 pm. Her brother, niece and I were served with curd, dahl (lentil) and rice while her mother, sister in law and Amperi had rice and dahl. Everyone except her got more dahl (lentil) except her.
The situation of girls within the family, the expectation from them to work and contribute to the family, the lack of opportunities to study, careless behavior of teachers and parents, deep rooted patriarchal society,lack of information, empowerment and motivation all are together dragging girls like Amperi out of school, with few other options but early marriage and early child bearing.