Maharani programme offers young girls opportunities to be heard – Teacher Nadarajah
Retired school teacher K. Nadarajah was one of the earliest individuals who helped out in the Maharani programme by introducing the programme to schools in his vicinity.
His passion is not just teaching but also to train and ensure stigmatised and underperforming students to reach their highest potential.
“After enrolling in the Maharani programme, I saw the difference it was making in the girls overall behaviour. There was gradual progress as the girls saw hope for a better future and this improved their self-esteem,” he said.
Nadarajah, former president of the Educational Welfare and Research Foundation (EWRF) also helped to spread awareness among parents and school teachers about the Maharani programme. He was also involved in enrolling students into the Maharani camps from 2010 to 2013.
He says building trust is important when working with young people.
“There are many cases of young people with issues but they are unable to speak up or share these issues so they are often left to suffer in silence. It is not easy to get them to open up within the three-day camp but it served to slowly gain their trust,” he said.
Nadarajah recalls the story of a girl who attended the Maharani camp in its early years. She came from a broken family and it was obvious that she was deeply unhappy and something was bothering her. The coordinators of the camp paid special attention to her to try and get her to open up.
“We were sure that she had some personal problem, but she did not open up to any of us. After the programme was over on Sunday, she went back to her school on Monday where she met my wife who was her class teacher.
“She revealed to my wife that she had been sexually abused by a relative in her grandmother’s house where she was living. She said she wanted to commit suicide by jumping from the top floor of the school because she was ashamed of what happened to her,” he explained.
However, the girl then went on to say that the Maharani camp and the coordinators gave her the courage to take charge of her life and seek help to end the abuse.
“We helped her to see a professional counsellor and today, she is studying in a college for her degree. What I am trying to say here is that the Maharani programme gives young people the hope and awareness that there are other people who are willing to listen and help,” he added.
He said the impact of giving hope and opportunities to girls from troubled or lower economic background was evident as they have changed for the better.
The Maharani programme, initiated in Malaysia by RYTHM Foundation in 2010, has helped over 7,500 girls from poor and marginalised communities. It provides the girls, aged 13 to 16, with the skills and knowledge to enable them to achieve their full potential. Through the Maharani programme, girls learn about gender, sexual and reproductive health; ethnicity; culture, and the importance of physical and spiritual wellness.
This gives them the tools to develop into confident, responsible and civic-minded women and members of society.
This article is part of the series to share the journey of Maharani’s 10th anniversary celebration. #Maharani10