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"After the death of my father, my brother wanted me to drop studies and start working as a sweeper like my mother. When I refused, he sent me to the village to be married off."

Case study (Stories of Change) of Suhani

This could have been the end of Suhani's story. But it became a new beginning for her, as Suhani Didi - an inspiration for her peers, the young and the old alike. Today, she's not only diligently pursuing her graduation in Hindi Literature from a Delhi University college, but also teaching other children at the Mission Education centre where she first started her journey.

Suhani's father died when she was just four. As there was no money for school, her elder sister quit her studies after class 7 and was married off, while her brother started working.

Had she not been spotted by Mission Education project coordinators during a mobilization session in her community; Suhani's life would have followed a similar path. Her brother was adamant on discontinuing her education and it took rigorous counseling sessions throughout her school years and her own strong resolve to overcome her mother's and brother's apprehensions.

But this is not just Suhani's story; every child in her community has a similar story to tell. Since the initiation of the Mission Education centre in her community twelve years back, over 50 children every year begin their journey towards empowerment. Suhani says, her eyes shining with confidence, "Today, no child in our community is illiterate."

She's not far from the truth as children in the community, as soon as they turn of age, begin their pre-schooling at the centre, and are mainstreamed into nearby government and public schools by the time they turn five.

The change in the outlook is for all to see. Suhani and her friends proudly point out their streets in the slum colony they live in, "See now we keep our streets very clean. Though the area is still dirty, slowly everyone will learn."



A class 10th passed woman, married to an auto-rickshaw driver with two young daughters, doing petty tailoring jobs to supplement the meagre household income, Gultaz could have been an ordinary woman battling poverty; lost in the crowd with no dreams, no identity of her own.

Case study (Stories of Change) of Gultaz

But her resilience and her determination to change things have made her rise above the din and emerge as a beacon for other women in her neighbourhood. 27-year-old Gultaz stays in a nondescript low-income group cluster near Chandra Layout in Bengaluru with her family, amid overflowing sewers. Gultaz would have submitted to her fate, had it not been for her daughters. Worried about their future and hoping for them to get a good education, live in a better place, Gultaz decided to get a job with a regular income.

She heard about Smile Foundation's Smile Twin e-Learning Programme (STeP) running at nearby Sama Foundation centre and joined it to get the employability skills required for a job. Her parents and in-laws were not supportive of this decision and tried to dissuade her. She herself was unsure if she would be able to learn after such a long gap and with her minimal education. But nonetheless she set out with the single-minded goal of ensuring a good life for her daughters.

Now five months later, Gultaz is preparing for her exams at the STeP centre after which she hopes to join a company in the service or retail sector, with the help of STeP coordinators and get closer to build a better future for her baby daughters.

Gultaz says that her husband is now very supportive and has started taking pride in her decision.



When Malarzhivi and her mother first visited Smile Foundation's Smile Twin e-Learning Programme (STeP) centre in Chennai, they had expected to be turned down at this door too, just like all the others they had knocked.

Case study (Stories of Change) of Malarzhivi

Malarzhvi's father had died when she was just a child; her mother had somehow managed by taking up menial jobs. Despite hardships, Malarzhivi's mother, determined to have a secure future for her daughter, had worked double shifts to continue her schooling.

But when Malarzhivi passed her SSC, her mother could not afford the cost of higher education and had thought it appropriate to find a good match for her daughter. "I thought this was best for her. Her husband earned well as a driver”, says her mother.

However her mother's hopes were shattered when Malarzhivi's husband died just a year after the marriage, leaving her with a child.

Since then Malarzhivi and her mother had been trying hard to make ends meet and bring up the child, but they could see that their struggle was getting worse every day. During this time, a neighbour advised Malarzhivi to join the STeP course, which would get her a regular job.

Malarzhivi enrolled for the course. She worked very hard and became one of the most consistent and sincere students at the centre. After completion of the STeP course, she immediately got a job with a sales firm in Chennai with a decent salary.

With her two year old son in her arms, Malarzhivi says, "STeP turned my life around. Now the bad part of life is over. I have already got another, better paying job as Sales Executive at Westside. I hope God will be merciful now."



Instead of learning shapes, letters and numbers, Mamuni spent her childhood learning to wash dishes. She cleaned and scraped for long hours, working with her mother as a maid in a remote village in West Bengal. Life was exhausting and Mamuni barely had time to sit down, let alone think about going to school.

Case study (Stories of Change) of Mamuni

Three years ago Mamuni's family moved to a slum cluster in Noida, UP, in search of better work. Mamuni realized all her friends from the neighbourhood, even those younger than her, could read and write but she could do neither. With great apprehension she told her parents that she wanted to read too.

Mamuni's parents were unsure whether education could be of any use for their daughter, but for her satisfaction, visited the nearby Mission Education centre with some neighbours whose children were already studying there and talked to the teachers.

Mamuni was ecstatic when her parents after their visit told her to leave her work and go to the nearby Mission Education centre with her friends. In just two years, Mamuni was mainstreamed at the nearby government school.

Mamuni, now 14, is a class topper today and takes special classes at the centre in her spare time for new students who have never been to school before.


Md. Alam

Thirty-something Md. Alam is a proud father of two girls. For five years now, this young crusader of women empowerment has become a household name in communities far beyond Trilokpuri in East Delhi, where he lives.

Case study (Stories of Change) of Md. Alam

"It was God's wish to bless me with two daughters. After I became a father I felt the urge to do something for making our country a better place for our daughters," reveals Alam.

He approached Smile Foundation's Swabhiman centre in New Ashok Nagar and started working as a devout 'change agent.'

He has since then put together a large force of community youth who have become his ardent followers. They motivate local communities and also perform street plays with colloquial scripts. They travel across Delhi and its neighbourhood, and sensitize people for making the society a better place for girl children.

"When we become living examples, it is easy to bring change." He concludes, "I feel blessed everyday."

Md. Alam is a motivation for 'Male Involvement' in empowering women in its true sense. With this unique spirit, more than 75,000 community men have been engaged proactively in empowering women in their various roles under Swabhiman, Smile Foundation’s empowerment programme for girl child and women.


Nemabhai Makwana

Forty-five years old Nemabhai Makwana from Shinad village in Patan district, Gujarat, has been living with polio since birth. Because of his disability, he is completely dependent on his parents.

Case study (Stories of Change) of Nemabhai Makwana

Nemabhai's aging father, a small-time farmer, is the sole provider of the family. Life is not easy when one has to deal with both disability and poverty. A minor ailment seems like a big battle. The nearest government hospital is a journey across seven seas, literally.

Smile on Wheels came as a hope at the doorstep of people like Nemabhai, when it was introduced in 20 villages in Patan, with support from Cairn India.

Nemabhai had been going through severe chest pain for quite some time, when Smile on Wheels came to his aid. After the diagnosis, treatment began immediately and follow-ups were conducted twice a week.

After two months, Nemabhai is now as full of life as he has been known for.

As if he has conquered immobility, Nemabhai now mobilizes villagers and brings them to Smile on Wheels every week when the mobile hospital pays the routine visit to his village.


Sobha Devi

Like thousands of women battling poverty in remote villages, life has been a series of disappointments for Sobha Devi. The 37 year old woman lives with her two sons in Mithaj village, Madhepura, Bihar.

Case study (Stories of Change) of Sobha Devi

Her husband migrated to Kerala in search of work six years ago and sends whatever little he earns home every month. Sobha works as a daily wager in nearby fields.

Life took a turn for worse two years back, when Sobha started suffering from severe pain in her breast. At first she ignored it, wishing it to go away on its own. Going to the hospital would cost money and loss of a day's wages - this was too expensive a price to pay for her, suffering the pain was a cheaper option.

Her way out was buying pain killers from the local kirana shop. The temporary relief helped her carry on, but her ailment became worse, inching towards a point of no return.

Smile on Wheels began operations in her village in this hour of dire need. The doctor's checkup revealed a lump in her breast and medication was immediately prescribed.

In three months the lump disappeared and so did the pain. Unwilling to take any chances, the SoW team referred Sobha to the Government hospital to check for malignancy which thankfully came negative.

The Smile on Wheels project in Madhepura provided healthcare services at the doorsteps of over 16,000 people like Sobha last year.