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Freedom. It’s what we all desire. But for many young girls in Shivaji Nagar, life is not so easy. They don’t have the liberty to go out of their homes, play with friends, and meet people. Sixteen-year-old Ruksana Mohammad Ansari from Mominpura, Govandi was also not leading a free life. She lives in a very conservative family. The family includes her parents, two siblings, and grandmother. Her father is working as a labourer with a mere income of Rs.7000/- per month.

Taslim, a project Health worker met Ruksana in the community in 2016. It was then that Ruksana showed interest in the project work for the first time. She wanted to join their sessions. The health worker also had confidence in the project and realised the long-term impact it could have on Ruksana, her family, and more importantly, her community.

Ruksana’s family was not in favour of Ruksana attending these sessions and going out of the house. The health worker consistently visited Ruksana’s house and tried to explain the importance of these sessions to Ruksana’s family and community. Talim, the Health worker gave an example of Saleha Khan, our child champion who received State-level Savitribai Phule Award for her exemplary work on Menstrual Health and Hygiene.

Taslim truly believed that Ruksana too could reach heights if given a chance. The health worker counselled Ruksana’s parents and built their trust. Ruksna soon got engaged with the community and showcased good leadership skills. Taslim recommended her as a potential adolescent leader. Now, Ruksana volunteers in Bal Raksha Bharat’s projects as an adolescent leader whilst pursuing her education in college. Her parents too are very supportive now and allow her to take part in all the activities.

One of the ways Ruksana has played an active role in the community is by helping in the monthly growth monitoring of children aged 0-6 years. Taslim taught her how to use the growth monitoring machine, stediometer and infantometer. Every month during growth monitoring, Ruksana mobilises children from the community and assists Taslim to weigh them. Bal Raksha Bharat aims at monitoring and identifying health issues in their community by equipping community leaders like Ruksana.

Ruksana said “It gives me immense pleasure when I see the difference in those children who need regular growth monitoring”.

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