January 27, 2022
The story below is from a girl enrolled in our Girls’ Education Program directly benefiting from funds raised through Red Nose Day, a campaign run by the nonprofit organization Comic Relief US.
Nishita lives in a community located about 16 kilometers outside of the city-center of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. She has been enrolled in Room to Read’s Girls Education Program since 2020. During COVID-19 school closures, Nishita tried her best to continue her education at home with the help of her social mobilizer, teachers and parents. Throughout the pandemic, Room to Read has worked in partnership with the local and national government in Bangladesh to provide educational television episodes and life skills lessons through the national television channel. This work would not have been possible without the support of Red Nose Day. In addition, Nishita made an effort to continue her life skills lessons with her social mobilizer remotely through individual and group phone calls.
In September 2021, Nishita was thrilled to be returning to the classroom after about a year and a half of closures. She shared how excited she was to make friends and physically be learning in the classroom environment after such a long time. However, her education came into question after she experienced sexual harassment on her way to school and subsequently became afraid of leaving her home.
One day, when she was walking to school about 10 minutes away from her home, Nishita noticed a group of young men following her. This was especially alarming for a girl who had to go through a secluded stretch of land to get to class.
Because this occurred several days in a row, Nishita decided to speak to her family about it. Her brother became worried and decided to try to speak to the men to resolve the issue and stand up for his sister. The men, however, beat Nishita’s brother -- injuring him and instilling even more fear within Nishita. She became so scared that she would not venture out of the home. Suddenly, the joy of being able to go back to school and enjoying her Room to Read life skills lessons was completely lost. Her parents were alarmed as well, so they advised Nishita to stop going to school. This is often the case for many girls in Bangladesh and surrounding countries who face issues of sexual harassment and safety on their way to and from school. Her family’s honor came into question as well, and they had to make a decision—was it worth for Nishita to continue her education?
Soon the issue became more public and luckily, the heads of the local government intervened. They rebuked the young men and sent them off with a stern warning. But Nishita wouldn’t be allowed out of the home. She did not even want it herself.
Nishita’s Room to Read social mobilizer quickly jumped to action. She spoke with Nishita’s parents and convinced them that education was non-negotiable. After some persuasion, her parents saw the benefits of Nishita continuing her education and they agreed to let her return to school. However, Nishita needed more than her parents’ permission. She was deeply affected and truly scared of what was to happen if this persisted.
Her social mobilizer continued speaking with Nishita to encourage her and build up the confidence she needed, discussing her dreams and the importance an education for her future. After about a month of staying in her home secluded, and continued encouragement, Nishita overcame her fear and returned to school. She also once again began attending Room to Read’s life skills lessons.
Nishita said that she found the life skills topics so relevant to her life, she thought Room to Read’s life skills manual was written for her.
Responding to a question about what she would do facing various challenges girls in Bangladesh typically face, she said:
Without the support of Comic Relief US – Red Nose Day, girls like Nishita would not have the support they need to continue their education. We sincerely appreciate the investment Red Nose Day is making in girls’ education and empowerment in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh—CRUS is truly making a difference in girls’ lives, their families lives and the entire community.