Hyderabad-based, Anusha Bharadwaj, is making a difference in the society by educating adolescent girls, from marginalised sectors, about the issues relating to their physical and mental changes. The executive director of ‘Voice 4 Girls’, Anusha is also a documentary photographer.
About the ‘Voice 4 Girls’ she says, “We started this organisation in 2012 and for the past eight years we are working with adolescence girls. We work with government and private schools. This age being really critical for girls, we help them understand how their body is changing and what are the social and cultural changes that are expected from them, etc. We tell them what the importance of everything is and school as well. All these girls have gone through three camps with us.”
“It is a 30-day intervention over a period of a year, we train them on different aspects and after training, they become a leader – ‘Sakhi. All through the academic year of ninth grade, these girls educate other girls who do not attend the camp. This whole circle of empowerment is widening with each generation that they teach,” Anusha adds, who has an MBA in Rural Management.
Convincing the stereotypical and traditional mindset of parents is certainly a task and girls who have families with this mindset have a very difficult life to explain about things happening in their life. “We teach these girls how to negotiate with the situations that are in the society. We give ideas so that they can empower themselves.”
Sharing one of the stories of the girls in the camp, Anusha says, “A lot of these girls have stopped child marriages and in fact one ‘Sakhi’ named Maheshwari, from Jadcherla, saw her elder sister getting married and taking the onus she negotiated with her parents to stop the wedding and enrolled her sister in college again. All these girls now have the desire to be doctors and astronauts. Girls who used to think that periods might be the end of everything are now in a phase where they say that it is natural and normal.”
“Till date, we have trained about 65,000 adolescence girls. This year as these girls become Sakhi, we watch them do their work and give them an opportunity to hear from them. As many of them are from marginalised sectors after camp we take them excursions, picnic, movies, etc to also give them a fun experience.”
After getting trained in these camps the girls are given an opportunity to come back and counsel other girls in different schools and colleges. “We recognise that we need to work with boys and teachers, we are starting to widen. We are doing a camp called ‘Boys 4 Voice’; we are taking them through different aspects of adolescence. We are showing them how it is to be a girl and how they can become gender advocates. Through talking about their own issues and anxiety, we are helping them how to have a shared vision with girls.”