Her name – Anita Kushwaha – does not ring a bell yet. And as she cycles through the dirt tracks of her village in Muzaffarpur, the 17-year-old looks just that: a teenager, but with more than a hint of boldness in the way she tosses her head or looks straight at you. Remember that face: she is UNICEF’s new poster girl.
Kushwaha is also the youngest of three girls selected from all over the country by UNICEF as role models who countered gender bias and made a space for themselves.
But even before the UN body spotted her, making money out of honey and pocketing a profit of Rs 1 lakh, the villagers of Patatiyasa knew her as “queen bee”.
It has not been easy for Kushwaha. Four years ago, she opposed her parents who wanted her to get married. It was unheard of in that Dalit village. Her parents, labourers, finally gave in to the insistence of the girl.
Her sight was set on something else – bees and business. She bought a box with a queen bee for Rs 2,500. The seed money came from a year of giving tuitions to children.
The box started yielding honey and her mother, taken with the process, helped her buy a second one. Raw honey fetched Rs 40-45 per kg. Like good businesspeople, they saved money and bought more boxes. Today, the Kushwahas’ courtyard is abuzz with bees in over 100 boxes. The profit: Rs 1 lakh a year. “I even bought a motorcycle for my brother,” she says.
Kushwaha’s business has created interest in the entire village, with many households taking up bee rearing. “Everyone used to make fun of me,” smiles Kushwaha. “Now they don’t.” In the Kushwaha household, the business begins only after Anita returns from college, Mahant Darshsan Das Mahila Mahavidyalaya in Muzaffarpur, where she is studying for bachelor’s in arts.