b'Now, a group of 20 women belonging from different castes sit together, eat together, learn together and they know they will grow together. CHHOTI KUMARIAnd she is witnessing a change in the community.actually rooted in discrimination. Otherwise,Now, a group of 20 women belonging from differentit appears very normal to them. They accept it castes sit together, eat together, learn together andwithout question. they know they will grow together, she said. If theyWhen Chhoti began conducting Heifers gender earn and save, they will be able to move forward in life.training in her community, she started uprooting They will send their children to schools, have a decentthese prejudices. Earlier, the belief was boys should shelter over their heads and will stay healthy and safe.go to school and girls should stay at home, she This collective growth helps individuals andshared. All these beliefs are now shifting. They communities challenge other prejudices that holdacknowledge that girls and boys are equal and them back, one of the strongest being gender-basedshould be treated that way in all aspects. discrimination in education. Though India overallBy confronting these challenges head-on and ranks low in literacy rates, the gap in male andchanging lives as a community trainer, Chhoti female literacy in Bihar is even more unnervingis having a ripple effect in rural Bihar, inspiring at roughly 57% and 29%, respectively. While manyindividuals beyond Heifers projects. boys get opportunities to attend school, girls areOne such individual is 18-year-old Chandni, often assigned duties of taking care of their a girl from the remote village of Dethua where younger siblings and assisting with householdChhoti conducts trainings, who now aspires to chores, due both to gender roles and inadequatehave a career in medicine. household income.Chandni lives with her parents and siblings; the When trainers like Chhoti address thesefamily farms a small piece of land as their major inequities during the sessions, participants cansource of livelihood. Since childhood, Chandni has contemplate their own ingrained beliefs.seen domestic responsibilities passed to young girls Through gender training, the motive is to help often crushing their ambitions and dreams. individuals identify discrimination and violence,Let the girl turn 16-17 and she will [be] asked tosaid Nimisha Bhagawaty, program officer at Heiferget married, she said. Nobody considers howIndia. They are able to reflect that what they hadthe girl might live her life if the man or his family accepted as tradition and community practice isare unsuitable. Chandni studying for her medical entrance exam via online classes. HEIFER.ORG |13'