Defy the Odds | Political economics

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Fver the past 13 years, Baby Bagri has constantly worked and fought against hardships to secure the future of the children in her community through education. She has become a role model for many. Speaking to TNS, she said: ‘The company has been mean to our community. Our children sit on the ground to receive an education and our women are looked down upon. She adds: “To provide decent employment to the women of my tribe, I opened a sewing center and a school for the children.

Baby Bagri from Qambar Shahdadkot district in Sindh has been running a school for seven years to educate the children of her tribe. For the past year, she has also been supporting women in her community by opening a vocational training center, employing women and teaching them to sew.

The Bagri community belong to one of the ancient nomadic tribes of Sindh and have lived in Qambar for many years. Generally, Bagri men grow and sell vegetables and fruits. Women and children go from house to house begging to make ends meet.

Baby Bagri was different from other women in her tribe; she wanted to learn and educate herself. She convinced her mother to send her to school. Finally, after completing her education, she got a job at Sindh Education Foundation School. Later, she opened the school and vocational training center she now runs to support other people like her.

Speaking to TNS, Bagri says she founded the Sant Hira Lal Community School in 2015, where 300 boys and girls from the Bagri community are currently enrolled.

Bagri says starting a school was not an easy task for her. Thanks to the support of political and social groups, she succeeded in establishing the school. Social media has played a pivotal role in ensuring that students at Sant Hira Lal schools have uniforms, books, furniture and other necessities. People supported the initiative, Bagri said.

Challenge the odds

Bagri, although happy with her job, worries about the funds needed to run the school and vocational center effectively. Although the monthly expenses keep her on her toes, she is determined to ensure that the school and center continue to provide for the needs of the women and children in her community.

Baby Bagri says members of the Bagri community are looked down upon in Sindh and not given many opportunities due to deep-rooted social prejudice and prejudice against the community.

“Our children used to beg in the streets and shine shoes. Now they won’t. Today our children are in school,” she says.

Baby Bagri says Muhammad Usman Memon and others donated the land for the school, and several people supported them in building it.

Some 25 to 30 women learn to sew at the vocational center in Bagri. The vocational center in Preet ensures that women find secure employment and do not have to beg. She believes that prejudice against them can only be eradicated through education and skills development. Bagri now plans to strive to build a higher education institution in the town of Qambar.

Her husband, Pardesi, supports Bagri in his mission. She says he manages household expenses by riding his bike buying and selling bric-a-brac.

Baby Bagri faces several challenges. She says her fight is endless. One of the many challenges is convincing girls in her community to come to school. Another is to change the mindsets of older members of the community towards early marriage. Girls, she thinks, should be given the chance to be educated.

Bagri, although happy with her job, worries about the funds needed to run the school and vocational center effectively. Although the monthly expenses keep her on her toes, she is determined to ensure that the school and center continue to provide for the needs of the women and children in her community.

In time, Baby Bagri wants to open more schools and training centers in Qambar and other parts of Sindh. She also faced backlash from her community. Bagri says some people don’t want to change. They want to keep women and children at home to beg and earn for the family.

At one point, Baby Bagri says, she wanted to give up. She says it was the support from social and political circles in the city that gave her the courage to keep going.


The author is a freelance journalist. He tweets @RehmatTunio

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