I’m about to narrate a heart-wrenching yet inspiring story of Purnima Singh, daughter of Suna & Minati Singh of the Bhumija tribal community in the Mayurbhanj district of Odisha.

Purnima had spent her childhood days in the Khalia village of Balasore district at her maternal uncle’s place. Her life took a u-turn as her mother came back to her maternal grandfather’s house with her and her little newborn infant brother of three months old. Her mother was a victim of domestic violence. Purnima’s father Suna Singh is a chronic alcoholic who used to physically abuse her mother as a little Purnima looked on helplessly. Though her mother visited her in-laws place intermittently, she had to go back after being subjugated to inhuman torture by her father. Since then they never returned to their native village.

Her mother had no idea how to bring up her two small children amidst acute poverty. Problems multiplied as she was incapable of working hard enough to make ends meet. Further, as ill-luck could have it, her mother became the victim of scorn and physical abuse even at her own father’s place. Little Purnima endured all these silently. But this gave birth to a silent resolve in her to turn her fate around, provide succour to her poor and unhappy mother when she would grow big enough.

One fine day, Purnima’s mother came to know about KISS from other villagers and its mission to provide quality education to disadvantaged children. She heaved a sigh of relief to know that at KISS, children from marginalized communities are provided with free formal/ vocational education, lodging, boarding and other facilities. With the help of the villagers, the mother was able to get Purnima admitted into KISS. At the same time, she migrated to Tamil Nadu to work in a factory with her little infant son. However, destiny never supported her mother as her little son became chronically sick and she had to spend her hard-earned savings for his medical treatment.

Purnima is now a student of class VI at KISS. In addition to formal education, KISS also teacher her life skills, and helps develop her craft. She is looking at the future with new hope in her eyes. She has nurtured dreams of ending the sorrow of her suffering mother by studying hard. During the summer vacation, like many of her classmates, Purnima never goes to her village. Her mother has not been able to come back to her village. Purnima’s uncle and aunt come to visit her in the Guardians Meet at KISS.

She feels the comfort of nature’s lap in KISS. She is aware, had it not been for KISS, she would have had a very difficult life. Now she hopes to become a change agent for many disadvantaged children in her community and village and march steadily in the path of progress.

There are plenty of such stories and such girls who suffer in our country and worldwide. Gender inequality isn’t a problem we can ignore, even in a pandemic. As per data government-ordered lockdowns have shown rapid increases in domestic violence. Schools are closed and girls’ education lags. And women are nearly twice as likely to lose their jobs than men. With thoughtful attention and deliberate action, we can change this and build a more resilient future. And that can only happen if we take action now. There’s an opportunity in our hands right now—to rebuild a stronger, more resilient, more prosperous world, one that sidelines systemic inequality.