Sunday is my fun day of the week. As I walk to pick up my best friend Beena, I take a deep breath and enjoy the time alone. Beena lives just a few houses away from mine, and I enjoy my walks to hers every week.
On our way to the Shakti Center, Beena always asks me if I’m carrying my Pink Book. I would never leave home on Sunday without it. It is the book that I use to write all my dreams and plans for the future. During the week, I keep it in a safe place to hide it from my brothers and sisters. Every Sunday, I take it out and write more in it.
Beena and I go to the Shakti Center every Sunday. The turquoise coloured walls have become a symbol of safety and warmth to me. It’s my second home and a place that I get to be the real me. At first, I was really shy and didn’t want to say anything during the sessions. Over time, I have learned that this is a place that I can share anything that is happening to me or bothering me.
I never wanted to come to the Shakti Center. When Mrs. Hajera knocked on the door of my house a few months ago and told my mother about the program, I didn’t want to go. Sunday is my only free day, and I didn’t want to give up any time on my one day to rest. My father is a rickshaw-puller so my mother works to help support our family. She is a saree embellisher and works with beautiful fabrics. Two years ago, when I was in 6th grade, they pulled me out of school to work with my mother. I always enjoyed the fabrics, but I get really tired. That’s why I didn’t want to spend my Sunday at the Shakti Center.
When Mrs. Hajera told my mother that I would be with other girls and learn about safety, rights, and education, my mother gave me no choice. The only reason I thought it might be nice to go is because my friend Beena was also going.
Now, I wait all week to go to the Shakti Center. Each week we discuss the stories of other girls. We use our red books to write down our thoughts about how other girls could have used their rights and made better choices. We also write about our own painful stories, and how we wish they had been different. Most of the girls in my Shakti Circle are younger than me, but I can see the pain in their eyes when they write in their red books. I know our Shakti Leader sees it too. We use our pink books to write down our own dreams. We are taught to become the woman we dream of being, and not to let anyone else tell us what we are worth. As long as we believe that we are precious, strong, and proud then no one can tell us differently or treat us differently. We have named our Shakti Circle the “Precious Stones”. We want to be strong on the inside, but beautiful on the outside and able to bring a sparkle of light to our community. This is what Precious Stones means to us – to be strong, confident and good.
Mrs. Hajera always takes time to ask me about my life. She asks about my sister who has been ill, and she helps me plan to make sure the dreams in my pink book come true. That’s how she found out that I want to finish school and start a tailoring business. She has been able to convince my parents to let me go back to school. We worked it out so that I can go to school, work with my mother, and attend Shakti in the week. It has been really difficult to catch up in my school after missing 2 years! I keep working hard because in my pink book I have written down my dream of finishing school, and starting my own tailoring business. My school also teaches tailoring, so I’m working towards my dream day by day.
I can’t wait for graduation, because I have some big plans. Some of them I have shared with my friends at Shakti, and some of them only my pink book knows!
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