A teenage girl’s success story in educating herself against all odds while rearing honeybees for a livelihood has found a place in a school textbook produced by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).
Anita Kushwaha, 17, has encouraged and inspired thousands of women in rural Bihar to be self-reliant.
NCERT has included a new chapter on the success story of Anita – titled “Anita and the honey bees” in a Class IV book on environmental studies called “Looking Around”.
The chapter describes Anita, popularly known as “queen bee”, as a role model for students and others for her efforts in educating herself and taking to beekeeping to increase the family income.
The chapter is full of amazing but true stories of Anita, born to poverty-stricken parents. Both her parents work as agricultural labourers.
Anita’s determination to educate herself despite poverty has been termed in the book as a “great struggle”.
Her determination to take to beekeeping has proved to be a turning point in supplementing her family’s income and funding her school as well as college education. Later, dozens of women of her village took to beekeeping to earn their livelihoods and educate their children.
Till early 2006, Anita was an unknown face in Pattiayasam, a nondescript village, mainly populated by Dalits, in Muzaffarpur district about 70 km from the state capital here.
Anita refused to marry and convinced her parents to let her continue her studies. She hit the headlines when Unicef picked up her story and selected her as part of their girl stars campaign in 2006.
She was then the youngest among 15 girls who were selected for a Unicef multimedia campaign to create icons from underprivileged backgrounds. The UN body made a film on her and released books about Anita’s inspirational story along with others.
Anita embarked on the path of self-reliance by collecting Rs.1,500 by giving tuitions to children and purchasing a box containing a queen bee.
“I started with only one box but now I have over 150 boxes for beekeeping. My story will inspire others to be self reliant,” she told IANS.
In 2007, she received the “Best Bee-Farming” award from Rajendra Agriculture University (RAU), Pusa, in Samastipur.
It was hardly easy. Anita won her first battle when, as a six-year-old, a local teacher and she persuaded her parents to let her attend school. “It wasn’t just our argument; my parents agreed because education till Class V was free,” says Anita. Since they were incapable of meeting their daughter’s schooling expenses, Anita began teaching children to pay for her education. She also took to running errands for “honeykeepers from neighbouring villages who would visit our locality thanks to the litchi trees.
That’s how I learned beekeeping,” Anita says. Fired by ambition and troubled by her poverty, she took to beekeeping full time. Using her savings of Rs 5,000 from tuitions and some money from her mother Rekha Devi, she set up her business in 2002, with two bee-boxes and as many queen bees. In just a few months, she had made a significant profit.
Anita was stung by bees many times and her swollen face would be an object of ridicule. But she kept going. “People would ask me if I get stung. Yes, I’d say. ‘Does it hurt?’ Yes, I’d say,” she says. But it does not matter now. Anita’s father left his job to join her business and visits other districts with the bee-boxes so as to collect honey from different sources.
A pucca house has replaced their modest dwelling and Anita has gifted a motorcycle to her younger brother. Her improved social standing is reflected in the fact that her mother is now the village chief of a political party. Her success has inspired other families to take to beekeeping and, remarkably, every girl in her village goes to school now.