“I share my birthday with Sachin Tendulkar,” Hajiya Begum declares proudly. “I was born on April 24, 1997. I have three sisters and a brother. My father, Ibrahim, died when I was just six years old. Farzana, my mother has since worked as a tailor in Shamshabad, where I was born. We rarely meet each other now. She didn’t seem to like the fact that I was born a girl. It was always my grandmother Karima who looked after me, ever since I was a few weeks old.
“I was in Class V in 2007 when I joined the Government Primary School in Shaikpet. My grandmother didn’t have the money to buy me even a schoolbag. We managed to stitch one together using an old cement sack and cotton rags. My grandmother insisted that I join the Nanhi Kali Programme in Class IV. But it was in Class V that the programme gave me the wings to fly. I now had a shiny new green and navy blue coloured bag and a kit in it. The kit equipped me with notebooks and workbooks as well as a uniform and pencil box. I was finally ready for school.
“I passed out of Class X in 2012 with an overall average of 93%. Even I couldn’t believe it. I still remember waking up in the morning and seeing my picture in the papers! I still have a couple of cut-outs from back then”, Hajiya says.
“In Junior College, Hajiya began focusing on science and mathematics, studying up to 6 hours a day. There were nights I had to pull her away to bed,” says Hajiya’s grandmother Karima.
“It helped me secure 944 out of 1000 in the Board of Intermediate Education exams. A better average than what I had got in Class X! I hope to become a software engineer someday. Whenever I visit HITEC city I feel as though I have what it takes to join a giant software company like Microsoft. My grandmother has always given me the strength and support to learn more. She has taught me that there is no difference between a boy and a girl. I was very fortunate to have Project Nanhi Kali come into my life at the same time to reinforce what my grandmother had taught me.”
Grandmother Karima adds: “I have now become weak, and would like to extend my full thanks to Naandi and the Nanhi Kali programme. I need further help from all of you. I am low on money and need desperately to put her through her college.”
With her meagre earnings as a maid, grandmother Karima may not have been able to provide fancy clothes for her bright young granddaughter, but she was able to secure education for her. “I still earn only Rs. 2000 a month, I’m sure you can imagine what it was like back then. We’ve come a long way, me and Hajiya,” Karima says.
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