A radical change has been brought about in Teesta and Dharla river basin chars as the girls are now involving themselves in education. Earlier, there were hardly any initiative to enroll girls into school and they had no access to education due to a number of barriers and challenges. The barriers mainly include gender prejudices, limited opportunities, negative attitude of the society, early marriage, etc. Moreover, due to poor communication system and geographical remoteness, retention rate of the girls after passing primary schools was lower in the char areas.
Things have changed. Now, the girls of chars are no more backward and they have come to know about their rights through awareness-building programmes among parents by different NGOs round the year. Therefore parents are aware about their girl children's education needs and they have started sending them to high schools, even to colleges. Four char villages at Teesta River basin Sholmari, Char Shalhati Nohani, Char Kalikapur and Votmari Paschim Char under Votmari Union of Kaliganj Upazila in the district have experienced remarkable change. Girls of these chars are aware about their rights, and most of them go to the high school. All these have become possible only for awareness building events, such as meetings, drama shows and discussion at these char villages round the year under the Char Health and Education Project of the NGO Own Village Advancement (OVA). OVA officials said, gender discrimination was one of the biggest problems among the char people, and char people always favoured boys and they neglected children born as girls. The people of chars did not have any intent to educate their daughters, but they are wiser and are sending their daughters to schools, same as their sons.
“The male persons at these char villages are taking care of their child daughters' education, and they discuss among themselves that daughters should not be neglected, daughters can bring happiness in our family," said OVA's Technical Officer, Khandaker Reaz Ahmed. Talking to Manirul Islam, Abdul Quddus, Mohor Ali, Shamsul Islam and many others at Char Kalikapur said, this correspondent found out that they used to consider female children a burden but now they consider them as assets.
Aklima Akhter of Char Sholmari now reads in class eight in the mainland school; she hopes that she will continue her education to the college and even the university level. “I work at home and in the field to produce crops after and before my school,” she added. “Our elder sisters finished their studies at the primary level, as they weren't allowed to go high school. But I, along with many other char girls are now studying," said Beauty Akhter of char Votmari.
Salma Khatun of Char Narsingh said, she runs a small grocery shop in the char village after and before the school and earns to support her educational expense, and her family. “I'm aware about my rights, and I am determined to continue my studies,” she said. Ahsanul Kabir Bulu, OVA's Project Manager, said that the people of chars are highly interested to educate their daughters since they realize the benefits of doing so in the long run. Suzit Kumar Ghosh, OVA's Executive Director informed that the NGO will continue development work in the char areas of Teesta and Dharla Rivers in the districts and continue to improve the lifestyles of the char people.