[Monday Motivation] How a girl from rural Odisha fought the odds to work for a German MNC

Encouraged by her sister and teacher, Radhika Behara overcame societal prejudice to become financially independent.

[Monday Motivation] How a girl from rural Odisha fought the odds to work for a German MNC

Monday March 14, 2022,

4 min Read

When Radhika Behara was four-years-old, she was sent to a hostel in the neighbouring Jarada village in Odisha’s Gajapati district to study. The young girl developed a keen interest in learning and decided early on that she, unlike the other women in her village, would study, make her own way in the world, and earn a living independently.

However, that dream came close to ending when her family asked her to give up her education and come home after she finished Class 8. They told her that she would have to get married and settle down like her sister.

“My father is a farmer, and we grew up in poverty. They told me that they could no longer afford to educate me, especially since I was a girl,” says Radhika.

However, it was the teen’s sister, Kaushalya, who intervened.

Radhika Behara

Radhika Behara overcame societal prejudice to become financially independent.

“She was already married and had three children by the age of 22. My sister told my parents that although poverty had deprived her of the opportunity to study, I should be allowed to follow my dream. She told me, ‘If anyone objects, I am here for you’,” says Radhika.

They relented and allowed her to move to the hostel in Behrampur to finish high school. Radhika continued to excel in her academics.

A teacher, Santosh Mohapatra, noticed how well she was doing and encouraged her to follow her dreams. When she finished Class 10, her parents once again insisted she come home.

“That’s when I told them that I wanted to go to the Industrial Training Institute in Behrampur to train to be an electrician. They refused to let me go. The villagers also told them that there was no point in training me in a line of work, where I would work alongside men. But Santosh sir convinced them to give me a chance,” says Radhika. However, the cost of her education was a big concern.

“Santosh sir told me about the Odisha government Sudakhya scheme for girls who want a technical education. I applied for it and got the scholarship,” says Radhika. As part of the scholarship, Radhika’s admission and hostel fee was paid and she was given a monthly stipend of Rs 1,500. “They paid for my uniform and also gave me an allowance to complete my apprenticeship after I completed my training.”

“By now, my confidence had grown, and I mustered up the courage to ask my parents if I could apply for a job as an electrician at a company in Cuttack. They gave me their permission and I cleared the interview. However, the company never sent me a letter, and I thought I had lost my chance.”

Then, a teacher at the ITI called and told her that a German multinational Freudenberg was hiring people for their Chennai office. She cleared the interview, but now faced the daunting task of telling her parents that she was moving far away.

“My mother was very upset. I had lived away from home since the age of four and was now moving to a strange place where everything would be different. My father was concerned that there would be no one to look after me. But I was determined and they finally relented,” says Radhika.

Today, 21-year-old Radhika has been working in the same company for a year. She hopes to become a permanent employee.

“The past year has not been easy. My mother passed away last month after a prolonged illness. I am also doing the best I can to make ends meet as living alone in a big city has its challenges. But I am doing it on my own terms,” she says.

“I am very grateful for people like Santosh sir, who pushed me to study. He is still encouraging young girls to be independent and follow their dreams. I too would like to tell girls like me who are dreaming of a better life – don’t study and then sit at home. Learn a technical skill and start earning. You may not have a big salary in the beginning, but you will be independent and live life as you want to.”

Edited by Megha Reddy