Intern Insights – From Sumit Nangia

A note from Sumit Nangia on his experience of working with Voice4Girls: 

In India, we have women holding very powerful positions, to highlight a few examples would be, our President (Dr Pratibha Patil),Our Speaker of the Lok Sabha (Mrs. Meera Nair), Leader of the Opposition (Mrs. Sushma Swaraj-BJP), President of the ruling political party, a woman again heading one of the largest private sector bank, Not just this there are women reaching the pinnacle of sports like Tennis and Badminton, Yet again they today hold positions as  Established Entrepreneurs, are a part of running successful NGO’s some even heading them. Well the list goes on. We have also seen women of Indian origin making their mark on literature bringing out well established authors and winning highest accolades (Man Booker Prize).

Looking at these statistics, one may definitely feel that women in India are going places.

However, how many of us are we sure on this? Are we inferring in the right direction??

Well, it’s hard to tell, where we have women climbing up Mt Everest and hitting the surface of the Moon and back, yet we in today’s date are facing issues like female foeticide, Child marriage etc. Let me take you through a journey of my experience and time spent with today’s other side of women.

Like many Indians, I too had a very rosy picture about the growth of Indian women and was happy knowing the above, over the cover facts. The real picture lies under the cover, which an average Indian is hardly aware of. My trip to a couple of schools in slums of Hyderabad has changed it all.  Having spoken one on one with students, teachers, school ‘correspondents’ (owners), the cushion around the said facts has got torn apart completely. A few situations that we think merely exist only in Government surveys were actually encountered and experienced upfront.

There are shocking and unbelievable examples of girls getting married at a tender age of 15 and less, without their consent to men who are sometimes double their age. Pregnancy in such cases almost follows soon, which is hazardous for lives involved because of the under developed child and lack of knowledge of motherhood to young girls. Not to speak of the impact of discontinuation of education/studies that such girls are undergoing and were suddenly pulled out from, as the parents feel it is better for them to get married and be ‘successful’. It is worth mentioning here that parents consider marriage of underage girls as ‘success’ against letting them completing their education and be genuinely ‘successful’. Such debatable definitions of parents, especially those living in rural areas/ country-side and slums, who make up a huge chunk of Indian population, is very alarming and disturbing as it completely destroys the sustainability and self-belief of girls , which shall only lead to destruction of lives of Girls, their next generation, Society and ultimately the Nation.

To help on the same, we definitely have many Government agencies as well as NGOs working to remove the social taboos and to make the girls confident, open & receptive to challenges and making them more aware about various aspects of human body, helping them understand dangers of early pregnancy including HIV/AIDS.

Voice 4 Girls, works on the same and approaches its goals via the medium of Summer Camps providing English Immersion and Gender Empowerment training in an aggregate of 96 hours spread over a month. It undertook its maiden summer camp in month of May 2011, with focus mainly on providing marketable and life skills to increase education and employment opportunities of girls living in under developed areas.

‘The effect’ was hugely visible in the meeting with girls of Diamond Mission School and Mohammed Memorial School, Rajendra Nagar, Hyderabad. The girls from these schools had a maximum attendance during the camp and were visibly benefited. The enthusiasm, zeal, confidence and elatedness shown by them during the conversation was remarkable. As a brief look into the background, almost all of them belong to below poverty line families and have lived under a constant fear of being packed away with someone after marriage and thus never dared to dream about a career. This lifestyle did a remarkable damage to their personalities, it made them quiet/silent. They never spoke of their aspirations or their fears to anyone. All this was turned around in only 96 hours with the 2011’Voice’ Summer camp. The said girls were spotted to be super silent and very shy at the beginning. Simple confidence building activities along with awareness about themselves and related stuff converted them into happy, chirpy, confident, full of perspective and goal driven young ladies. Classic example is of one of the girl, who was taught about how to deal with eve-teasing and getting around the same during the camp. When asked about the derivatives, she explained with sheer simplicity that she had the guy, teasing her, on the ground with a good solid slap. The positives to be derived out of same are – the confidence exhumed by girl, the self-belief she carried and the resolve she had, to teach the boy a lesson. 🙂

Also, a major stepping stone in this and more of these kind of success stories are ‘private affordable’ schools. These are the one which are scoring above the government schools and providing quality education to children below the poverty line at a very limited cost. These PAS (Private Affordable Schools) have been a revolution in this part of the world and have proved to be a major milestone in the direction of providing English medium based quality education. These schools charge a very nominal fees ranging from INR 100 to INR 350 per month and even provide concessions and scholarships to children who are not able to afford the fees, as the parents of most of the children studying here daily wagers, rickshaw pullers, small time merchants etc. Though these schools are run as ‘for profit’ organizations, still the fruit borne out of them is hugely desirable and heartwarming.

Last but not the least, ’Voice’ reached a total of 10 schools and 430 girls in its pilot project. This year, it aims to reach a total of 110 schools and 3600 girls. Having said that, the difference the same shall bring to the lives of these girls shall be worth looking up to. A note from Sumit Nangia on his experience of working with Voice4Girls:

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