LIVING WITH her family in the village of Kakora, 19 year old Anuradha Rathore is today pursuing a degree in MBBS at Jodhpur Medical College (JMC). Popularly known as Anu, she contracted polio as a young baby. But despite many hurdles, Anu did not get disheartened and has proved that she too is capable of performing academic feats just like any other person. Although the disease has affected the way she walks, it has not slowed down Anuradha’s pace in any other way. She has studied very hard and won a place at the medical college under a reservation for students with physical disabilities. Anu failed once at school and even though she still finds the work challenging, she is determined to become a doctor so that she can prevent other children from contracting the disease.
Anuradha has been declared as one of United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund’s (UNICEF) 15 ’Girl Stars’ chosen from five northern states in India, between the age group of 17 to 30 years. These girls through attaining education have managed to break the bounds of socio-economic constraints to make their lives a success. Young girls like Anuradha have grown to become role models in their communities, who inspire others to go to schools and continue their education.
Sulgana Roy, education specialist, UNICEF Rajasthan said that the ’Girl Stars’ project created by Going to School, a non-profit media trust in India has also made a series of films documenting success stories of the lives of girls like Anuradha from some of the most disadvantaged communities in India. The film on Anuradha was one amongst three girl stars in Rajasthan, whose story has been documented to show how ordinary girls like her have educated themselves against all odds, as a result becoming role models for others. Anuradha’s film has also been screened at various international film festivals, including the Schweltzer festival in Idaho, America as well as Canada’s first international disability film festival last year. Her film was extremely well-received by the jury members, one of whom reportedly remarked, "Anuradha, the medical student is a story of hope, one that inspires and informs."
Polio left Anuradha with a permanent limp, but it still did not manage to cripple her dreams of becoming a doctor. She said her dream is to go back to her village one day and establish a small hospital there in the memory of her grand father. "In this hospital, treatment would be provided free of cost to the poor and no one would be allowed to jump the line unless it’s an emergency," she added. Anu’s uncle also taught her how to ride a scooter, which made her completely independent.
Anuradha points out that people with disabilities have the right to lead a life of dignity and self-respect and must be mainstreamed in society.
Anuradha also attended a road show organised by UNICEF Rajasthan last year to spread the message of education. During her speech in Jodhpur, she addressed the gathering saying, "When you go to school and do well, the world forgets what you cannot do and starts seeing what you can do." Anu is proud that in spite of hailing from a poor family, she was given every opportunity to develop her potential as a child, which has helped her choose her own path in life.
Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.