NGO sets ‘help girl’ cycle in motion

Anita’s little sister helps her wash her bike every day in the hopes of getting a quick joyride. But for 17-year-old Anita, the cycle is more than just a form of transport. It is an engine of change.

•••

Published March 5, 2007 by IBNLive.com
By Shilpa Dhamija

Pune: Anita’s little sister helps her wash her bike every day in the hopes of getting a quick joyride. But for 17-year-old Anita, the cycle is more than just a form of transport. It is an engine of change.

"Initially, I was studying in a Marathi medium school in Sone Sanghvi, but since the last three years since I have been coming to this place. I used to come on foot and got late every day, Even my sir used to get angry but ever since I have got my cycle I am able to reach on time,” says Anita.

Just like Anita, traveling to a school seven km away was an uphill task for many teenage girls in the Shirur Taluka of Maharashtra until these bicycles came their way through an NGO called ‘Ashta No Kai’ which means ‘a better future’.

The founder, Armene Modi wanted to raise the literacy level among women in Shirur so she started a bicycle bank, to help young girls take the road less traveled.

"We started to give the bicycles to girls at a very nominal cost of Rs 300 deposit. When the girl finished high school we asked her to return the bicycle and recycled it to another girl,” says Modi.

According to Modi, the bank has brought about a visible change in the girls’ attitudes.

"We have visibly seen a decrease in the drop out rate and we have seen the marriage age of girls increasing,” says Modi.

Initially, Modi faced a lot of resistance from the villagers. Now there are more takers than donors for these prized vehicles.

Modi says even though the literacy rate of girls has risen in Shirur, her work is far from done. She wants every girl in Shirur to ride her way to success.

(With inputs from Sangeeta Sarma)