My name is Nivedita Singh and I am a project coordinator for the CorStone Girls First program in Bihar, India. I would like to share a personal story with you about Girls First’s impact. But instead of telling you how it has changed girls’ lives, or even how it has changed facilitators who work with girls – which I have indeed seen – I want to show you how my own world has changed from being associated with Girls First.
I have worked with Girls First since it began in Bihar 1.5 years ago. If you had met me when we started, you might have noticed how committed I was to the wellbeing of my local community. But you might have also noticed that I had some other characteristics I wasn’t so proud of. I had a tendency to lose patience with others at times; sometimes I lost focus and had difficulty seeing things through to completion; and at other times I had trouble presenting myself well. Sometimes I was too loud and other times I was too timid.
When I began working with Girls First, I was first exposed to the girls’ curriculum as I made sure it was printed and delivered to the facilitators’ trainings. Then, I watched the facilitators get trained and watched again as they conducted sessions with the girls. As time went on, I saw girls and facilitators becoming more in-touch with their feelings, more authentic with others and themselves, more confident in their abilities and more determined to reach their goals. This is really important in my community, where girls are often discriminated against and unable to complete their education.
And then I received a 5-day resilience training myself from one of CorStone’s Master Trainers, drawing from the CorStone toolkit. It was eye opening. I immediately started to practice what I had learned. I started slowing down and noticing how I was feeling at times when I used to lose patience, and I began exercising my forgiveness muscles; I started clarifying and focusing on my goals when I lacked persistence; and I started presenting myself to others more authentically and – I felt – courageously, without trying to hide anything.
Not long after the training, I needed to visit a government office to ask a high-ranking official for permission to conduct Girls First in certain government schools. I was excited to meet this person given his position. I called his office to set up an appointment…and was promptly told he was unavailable.
But I was determined. The girls at these schools deserved to have the program, I thought. I called the office regularly for two full days to see if I might somehow get an appointment. Finally, I was told that this man might be in the office the next day and that if I came in at a certain time I might be able to catch him.
I arrived on time, at 10am, and I waited. I waited and waited, and I waited some more. At noon, he arrived but had other urgent matters to attend to. So I just kept waiting and waiting. In the end, I waited for four hours!
The most important part of this story is that I was not angry, frustrated or disappointed that I had to wait this long. Instead, I remained patient and persisted through the hours to reach my goal of meeting with this man, and I was so cool and calm that even people passing by (some even passed me more than once!) were surprised to see me sitting there without getting irritated.
At 2pm I was finally called in to make my case. I shared all the documents related to Girls First with him and explained the importance of our plans. At last, after all our discussion, I said to him, “Sir, I would like to share with you that I have been sitting here since 10am, and I feel that this is the effect of the program. I am actually not angry that I had to wait so long: instead I was able to be patient and calm, and now that I have been able to present to you, all I am feeling is very happy!”
He was surprised to hear I had waited so long, and told a number of others that I had been there waiting for him for the last four hours. We were quickly granted the permission, and Girls First began in those schools a few days after that. Later I heard another government official, remarking about my experience, say that very few people have that much patience to wait, and then after all of that, even fewer have the guts to share frankly in front of a person of his rank.
The man I spoke with that day has since become one of Girls First’s greatest champions, who has helped our program to reach thousands of girls this year and beyond. And I often like to think that it was in part because I discovered my own resilience in the face of this and other challenges that these thousands of girls are now able to attend the program and find their resilience, too.
It’s clear to me that this program has a much greater effect than we may ever know: it impacts girls, facilitators, and it seems to have an unintended impact on many others who come into contact with it—including me!
Would you like to help thousands more girls and women in India discover their own resilience? Please consider a tax-deductible donation today to support CorStone’s work!