“The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes
Where do we find our sense of direction? Does it come from our immediate environments or through introspection?Most often it a combination of the two; VOICE’s philosophy fittingly emphasizes the need for the right information to reach marginalized adolescent girls so that they can map their futures to the best of their capacities and social realities.
As VOICE4Girls concludes its very last camp for the summer program of 2017, the atmosphere is jubilant – an emotion shared by every member of the extended VOICE family. About 261 students from 21 KGBV schools across Mahbubnagar district participated in the “Her Voice Disha Camp”, June-July 2017.
While Parichay camps introduced concepts focusing on self-awareness, safety, puberty, and rights, Disha’s curriculum builds on this foundation and explores themes around sexual health, growing up, planning, health, and nutrition.
The girls bring with them a very different energy and outlook to the Disha Camp, they are grounded, obviously having absorbed much of the information from the Parichay Camps, but certainly not missing any of the zeal and inspiration that is so true to their nature. Day 5 of the ten-day camp particularly pays attention to understanding mental health as a stand-alone concept but also an essential factor for overall physical health as well. So, assuring is the affirmation for the day, “I will love and look after myself” that promotes a positive self-image, taking care of self and nutrition.
Day 6 builds a momentum that is delightful to witness with the chapter “I am growing up”. Growing up as part of the adolescent process can be a very personal and critical juncture in one’s life, it is the time when one understands and questions identity? The idea of identity as homogeneously scripted and given to us is largely what we are conditioned to, but identities have many facets to them that can be comprehended to accommodate the many differences that makes up the human race. These many differences in identity take into account geography, culture, gender, body and experiences that are unique to an individual. Discussions around this is always a process of challenging the typecasts that society bestows upon us. Engaging with the girls at an age when identity formation can be moulded in the direction towards self-discovery and critical thinking is a responsibility, and one that is optimistically taken up by VOICE’s counsellors very seriously.
Sexual and reproductive health is still a very taboo topic, and providing young adolescent girls with this crucial information becomes necessary to address the sex ratio, infant mortality rates and maternal mortality rates of the country. These indicators are markers of social development for communities and the larger society, which Dr. B.R Ambedkar has justifiably put forth, “I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved.”
The girls are enthused to share their everyday learnings not only with their counsellors who are conducting the classes, but also with their other classmates who attended the previous cycle of the camp. “The conversations and laughter and never ending”, shares a counsellor who facilitating the Disha Camp for the first time. Planning for the future involves providing the girls with necessary tools such as – understanding how to map out future educational opportunities, how to approach relationships that are healthy and productive for the self, and community and most importantly to take charge of a future that is self-made.
Embracing the changes that come with adolescence has never been an easy transition, and especially for girls from marginalized communities that lack the positive role models that can provide the much-needed direction, Voice4Girls shares this “DISHA” with them with open hearts and best wishes!
Pavana V. P.