Daksha is only 15 years old; she is the youngest of 5. Her brother is the eldest (22 years of age). He is already married and also has a child. His wife does all the household chores with Daksha’s mum, thus relieving some pressure on Daksha. Daksha’s two eldest sisters are also married with children and live with their in-laws as traditionally expected. Her parents have worked hard to make a living for themselves and their children.

Daksha’s father was kicked out of his home due to a big family feud. Daksha was not yet born but her mother, and older siblings endured some rough times during that period. Daksha’s father would carry out any work he could get, often earning pittance for his hard work. Often he earned so little that he couldn’t even afford to feed his children. Due his persistence and continued hard work, Daksha’s dad saved enough money to buy a rickshaw. This meant that enough money was coming in the house to at least put a little food on the table, if nothing else. After a few years, her dad applied to become a bus ticket conductor. He was successful in his application and began to earn a regular income. His salary has meant a considerable improvement in their standard of living. Daksha’s dad has struggled through his life to make a life for his family. He teaches his children the need to work hard if they want to succeed in achieving their dreams and has been a positive role model for his children.

This endurance and determination has certainly been transferred to Daksha. Daksha first came to know of Shaishav in her school. Shaishav staff members held a session to inform children of the “circle point” programme, which was to be set up in their area. The aim of the session was to raise awareness of Shaishav’s work and encourage children to attend circle point.

Daksha did not initially attend circle point. She was very young at the time and her mum and dad were weary of allowing their daughters to be out at night, particularly due to the increased reports in the newspaper of crime in Bhavnagar i.e. children being kidnapped as well as murders and violence. Krishna, a senior Balsena members and a prominent role model, began attending circle point. She lived near by and influenced Daksha’s sister and her friend to come along and participate. With reassurance that the programme was well run and provided a safe and enjoyable for their children to play and learn, Daksha’s parents allowed her also to attend. Daksha’s mum would pick her girls up after the session.

The girls were very young then and were also quite scared of being outside in the dark. They were not use to it and were unfamiliar with the roads. Now Daksha assembles and leads the children of her area to circle point every week. She has encouraged many children from her area and in her family to participate. Her influence has seen an increased number of participants at the circle point in Anand Nagar. She is no longer scared of being out in the dark, she has become more familiar with her area and is also confident of handling problematic situations. Daksha has not yet taken the Wen Li Do (self defense) training but is very keen to do so this year. She says the advise and teachings from the girls who have already carried out Wen Li Do training has given her renowned confidence and strength.

Daksha became a core member of her team, when she began 7th standard. She learnt how to work in a team, how to communicate with her peers and how to manage and lead the team through training and the ability to practically carry this out as captain of her team. I asked Daksha what she had learnt during training sessions on leadership, and the leadership roles she has assumed through various exposure and experiences. Daksha replied that a leader is able to control and engage the audience whether it be adults or children, and a leader must be assertive and communicate effectively to avoid misunderstanding. She provided a couple of examples of the leadership roles she has fulfilled. Daksha became a volunteer one of the vacation camps. She would assist the teacher and help with activities. When the teacher wasn’t present, Daksha would take full responsibility for the children. She explained that it was very difficult at times as some of the children were very naughty and would not respect her. Children would hassle her and falsely accuse her of treating them badly. Daksha’s motivation began to slump. She was scared of going and battled with her desire to help (especially those children who were enthusiastic about learning) and her fear of having to take on the class on her own. With the support of Shaishav, she was encouraged to continue her session and has learnt to be much more firm and bold. Daksha now attends the circle point every week at Anand Nagar and is well respected by her peers. Her voice is heard and is able to control the children. With her continued participation and training, Daksha has developed her strength as a leader. She continues to develop and definitely has leadership potential.

Things haven’t always been so easy for Daksha. Her parents initially were afraid of sending their little daughter out and granting her the freedom necessary for her to participate fully in Shaishav events. When the Varshik No Karikrum was held, her brother would not grant his younger sisters permission to go. Her parents were away at the time so responsibility rested with him. Her sister tried to persuade her brother to let them go but no amount of crying, bribery or persuasion would convince him. So her sister packed their bags and left the house. On return, the situation was forgotten and nothing was said.

When Daksha’s name was picked to attend a conference in Mumbai for 3 days, her family again would not allow her to go. With great courage and constant persistence her parents agreed. This was Daksha’s first chance to leave Gujarat and meet children from all over India. She said she was quite scared at first, not knowing what to expect. But she thoroughly enjoyed her experience and really liked Mumbai. She saw the gate of India and the Tag Hotel as well as Chowpatty Beach. In addition she was exposed to the problems for children all over India and received inspiration from other children and the way they are helping to improve situations in their states. Daksha was also put on stage to present the work of Balsena and Kishori. She was naturally frightened. At the time she was just 12 years of age and expected the convey the very sensitive issues on child rights to VIP guests and very senior figures. Furthermore the presentation was to be conducted in Hindi, her second language, making it even more challenging. But her performance was excellent and really provided her with the self-assurance that she is capable. The satisfaction after the presentation was enhanced by the great feedback received. Listening to other presentations also gave her insight into different presentation styles and method which other people use to engage their audience. Such exposure would not have previously been possible for Daksha.

Daksha is very enthusiastic about Balsena and particularly Kishori. She explains the positive impact it has had on her personally. It is not possible to say what she would be like today if she had not got involved in Shaishav but it is possible to say what she has become since her participation. Daksha has developed into a strong and able character, with knowledge about child rights and awareness of problems relating to child rights on a local, national and international level. The vast opportunities of training, workshops, events and exposure visits have enabled her to grasp a sound understanding of the need for change and how this is possible. What is however most important is the chance Shaishav have provided her to enjoy childhood, while contributing to change.

Her parents and older siblings are very grateful for Shaishav’s presence and have seen the direct benefits it has presented. If only these opportunities were available when they were children, they say. Daksha is still very young and her parents understandably are concerned about her having to travel too far to attend evening sessions. But Daksha is a significant member of the senior team and her continued participation in Shaishav will truly be valuable for herself and the organization.