Empowering adolescent girls

a100_8555-2Hyderabad-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.”

The article originally appeared on The Hans India.

Sharing knowledge is always powerful!

Pallavi and Nayonika, from Voice 4 Girls conducted a session on Menstrual Health and Hygiene at Mana TV, that was telecasted live for the students of Telangana Social Welfare.

It is always a joy when we spread knowledge and create awareness regarding the things that are so important to women. The session covered some of the major topics like, why does menstruation occur, hygiene practices that should be followed during menstruation, how to calculate period dates, etc. It also covered the myths that revolve around menstruation. It was definitely one of the most exciting experiences for us.

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And The Winning NGO Is…

Screen Shot 2018-09-23 at 1.39.30 PM.png“And the winning NGO is…VOICE 4 Girls!”

These words will echo with the belief I always held that my work will speak for itself. This is the philosophy with which I lead VOICE 4 Girls, where all our efforts is to ensure high quality programming and belief that accolades will follow.

17th September 2018, was a culmination and recognition for the years of hard work, passion and perseverance – The Spirit of Humanity awards 2018!

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Out of 400 applicants, SoH shortlisted 26 Finalists and facilitated us as Regional Winners. The day also saw the Finalists present their work to an eminent panel of jury members like K.G Ananthakrishnan – Former Vice President – President and Managing Director, MAD India. Lt. Gen S M Mehta (Retd) – Chief Executive Officer – The Hans Foundation, Dr. Nirja Mattoo – Chairperson, Centre for DOCC- SPJIMR and S K Mitra – Chairperson, QSK Advisory Pvt Ltd.

A tight presentation schedule was provided to each finalist and within the time slot, we had to represent the work we did. After a tough round of questions from the jury members like the reason for working with school-going adolescents, about the rigour of the content etc. the hours to the award made for the most excruciating wait. I was fluctuating between anxiety and nervous energy and all I wanted was for the results to be announced.

So I was surprised that I felt none of the anxiety or energy when I heard the words, “And the winning NGO is…VOICE 4 Girls.” I felt calm and humbled. I decided to share this moment in my acceptance speech and this note is a special thank you to you as a VOICE Champion for making this moment possible:

“In this moment of celebration, I feel humbled for three reasons. One, the life of a grassroots organisation is full of immediate struggles; funds, human resources, community benefit etc. It is moments like these, when our work is appreciated, that we realise the immense impact that we have on communities. So I thank Spirit of Humanity and Americares for creating a platform for recognising our work.
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Two, the 26 finalists who presented their work gives me hope for the world. The issues they are working with, the vulnerable groups benefiting from their social action and the community transforming from recipients of social action to social change agents themselves, all this was evident from their presentation. So being chosen as one of the six finalists and the leader in the Educations sector is humbling and I thank my VOICE Board members, donors, partners and supporters of VOICE for standing strongly by us through our ups and downs.

Three, while I hold this award, I realise the huge responsibility I have of representing the voices of girls. The real struggles are being led in communities by 10 or 12 or 14 year old girls who are challenging societal norms, standing up for their rights, saying no to violence and paving new definitions for gender voices. I am humbled and honoured to represent their voices. I thank my amazing Team at VOICE 4 Girls and all those who have been part of our journey for furthering the passion, mission and vision of VOICE 4 Girls.”

With all the excitement dying down, the spirt of the award will continue to have us strive harder, reach many more adolescents and create a girls revolution!