Kaleena: From home to
community leader

A mother who carves out her own path, inspires others to make their own choices

Kaleena, 34, is from a village in Chhattisgarh. Due to her family’s financial situation, she had to drop out of school after Grade 8. Her father worked as a farmhand and income was irregular, which left her mother as the sole provider of the family. Kaleena gave up on her educational dreams so that her younger sister could complete college.

Happiness, however, eluded her even after marriage. She had a difficult marriage. It was only after the birth of her second child that Kaleena found the strength to leave her husband. Their separation marked a new beginning for Kaleena and her children — Khushi (7 years) and Yachna (10 years).

Determined to rebuild her life, Kaleena trained as a beautician and started stitching clothes at home to support her family. At the time, her mother shouldered the farm responsibilities while her father worked at a steel factory in Raipur, and visited them occasionally.

In 2021, Pratham approached mothers from Kaleena’s village to form a Mothers’ Group and support their children’s learning. Kaleena was selected to be the ‘leader mother’ since she assisted other mothers in understanding and conducting learning activities for their children.

Pratham provided the mothers with idea cards, activity suggestions and worksheets for their children. For mothers who couldn’t attend the meetings, Kaleena was tasked to visit their homes and demonstrate the activities.

“We do not hesitate to talk to others or make simple decisions anymore. Seeing other mothers understand their worth and come forward to fulfill their children’s dreams makes me very happy. I want each mother to know her worth. If they are determined, they can do anything,” she said.

The impact has been profound. Children, once shy, now exhibit enthusiasm for learning, while mothers revel in their newfound confidence.

Inspired by the profound changes she witnessed, Kaleena decided to chase her dreams further. In 2023, she enrolled in Pratham’s Second Chance program to complete her Grade 10. In 2024, she cleared Grade 10 exam and wants to study further. She has even encouraged a few mothers in her village to join the Second Chance program.

Today, Kaleena is a new version of herself. Her story echoes beyond her personal triumph and it’s an inspiration for other mothers in the village. She is no longer under the control of circumstances and makes her own decisions.