“That’s when I learned to never give up.”
Ruksana’s family are “pavement dwellers” – living on the streets of Kolkata, India, where her father has sacrificed everything to send his daughters to school. Ruksana’s life is filled with danger but she escapes into her artwork and draws strength from her father’s resolve.
Ruksana’s story is told by Sooni Taraporevala, the award-winning screenwriter of Mississippi Masala, The Namesake and the Academy Award-nominated Salaam Bombay. She was awarded the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian honor, in 2014.
India has one of the world’s fastest growing economies, but an equally rapidly growing population, resulting in one of the lowest per-capita incomes worldwide. The complexity and scope of both problems and opportunities for disadvantaged girls in India are as vast as its size, but if the country enrolled just 1% more girls in secondary school, its GDP would rise by $5.5 billion.
Priyanka Chopra narrates Ruksana’s story. The singer, actor and Girl Rising India producer says, “It is a global issue and it will take everyone coming together, across international borders and cultural divides, to support those who are standing up for equality in education.”
Ruksana continues to live in Kolkata with her parents, three sisters, and brother. She attends school and, along with her academics, takes drama, drawing and dance lessons. World Vision works with Girl Rising to support Ruksana and her siblings with school supplies, tutoring, tuition support, and medical assistance. In addition they, and other neighborhood girls, receive extracurricular coaching. It includes English classes, which help to boost their confidence and school performance, and computer classes.
As part of the empowerment initiative, this year the girls will begin hosting screenings of Girl Rising at schools and colleges in Calcutta.
After joining our team in Mumbai for the launch of Girl Rising India, Ruksana had this to say: “Flying high up in the air was a dream come true for me. I had never thought I will be able to fly like birds and meet celebrities in Mumbai.”