“Thanks didi for your support. My family has agreed to send me to school. I want to study well and grow up to be a teacher,” shared Swati when speaking to our team member.

This 16 year old girl, had a zest to study and do something with her life. She lived with her sister and brother in law who worked as laborers in Noida, while her step father and mother live in Khiriawan, Aurangabad in Bihar.

A student of the 11th  grade in a school at Noida, she needed 3000 rupees to pay her school fees. The family had repeated arguments over her education and her brother asked her to skip school for a year as they couldn’t afford her fees. The arguments continued even after her brother borrowed money and one day in a fit of anger, Swati boarded the Sharamjivi Express and arrived at Ghaziabad railway station.

Initially, she told our counsellors at the shelter home that she was kidnapped when she was five years old and that she lived in Kanpur and her kidnapper set her free two days before she arrived at the railway station. Four days later, with gaining her trust and coaxing her to share details of her home, her brother and sister were finally contacted. Worried that her education would suffer, she was stressed out and anxious, feeling that no one would understand her emotions, pushing her to run away from home.

Swati’s family was then called to the shelter home for family counselling, so that they could sit together and understand each other’s perspectives. Swati didn’t want to return to her parents’ home in Bihar, because her set father was abusive. Her brother admitted to have threatened Swati to stop going to school. It was with rigorous counselling that the family members understood the importance of sending Swati to school and securing her future. She too realised that the safest place for her was at home, and with her family.

“I am shocked that my friend was married off so early,” said Swati during a follow up call with our team. “I don’t want the same fate! I want to study and get a job,” she said assertively.

Swati is one of the million childhood faces in India. Railway Children India’s initiative – #BehindEveryFace, is an attempt to uncover and discover the story behind every child’s face, that is waiting to be told. By shaping the loftier narrative of childhoods in India and giving a space to everyone to share their stories of younger days, we aim to build a collection of children’s stories, that are a testament to their lives.