Feb 25, 2020

Empowering Girls Through Dialogues and Sports

                                            Update for GlobalGiving

                                       November 2019- January 2020

It’s My Body (IMB): Advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Adolescent Girls through Sports

We are realizing that we can speak and express. We can have opinions and we can put them out in front of people. At least, I have always obeyed whatever my parents and elders say. Now, I see the need to be critical, to not just, obey, but to question. It is not easy. But didi (IMB Program trainer) has explained to us about patriarchy and gender roles, it is true, we are discriminated against, as girls” said a 16-year-old participant of the IMB program in Jharkhand.

The participant has been a part of this batch of the IMB program from Chhatra, the field where our partner, Lok Prerna Kendra (LPK) co-implements the program. As the pace has picked up for curriculum-based sessions, many discussions, joy, and realizations have become a part of this journey of learning and unlearning.

 “Before this, we have rarely come together to just talk about our issues. We would not speak only. We did not know that we could engage and discuss this. It is new, we are learning,” said the same participant.

The program, especially through its curriculum-based sessions, also tries to create a space where girls understand their lives closely, connect with each other and co-create a safe space for themselves. The very act of speaking about your wants, needs, and desires becomes an act of courage when obeying and conforming to the ideas of. “the good girl” that is the norm.

With these sessions, the young girls and women are able to recognize patterns of violence, everyday functioning, and the impact of Patriarchy and gender roles in their lives. As they start recognizing gender-based discrimination in their lives, the unfair distribution of household work bothers most of the girls and young women. The girls are also identifying how their brothers go to private schools for education and they are sent to government schools where they are not cared about.

“The girls when they came, had to play football, they wouldn’t touch the ball. The ball would roll towards them and they would get aside, almost as if the ball was something explosive.  They would always have a dupatta covering their breasts; they felt restricted and could not run freely. After 4 months of the sessions and playing; now, look at them, they tie their dupatta firmly around their waists now; to play without any problems is their aim now. It is improving…,” said one of the trainer's from Lok Prerna Kendra.

In Jamshedpur, where the program is co-implemented by our partner organization YUVA, the girls were also able to identify some issues, which they put in front of the State Representatives. One group of girls, as they completed around 8 sessions, understood the need and importance of being exposed to and knowing new things. The girls wrote a letter to the authorities asking for a library in their village where they can access books, which will help them know more.

In another Interface meeting with the Self Help Group (SHG) representatives, Elected Women Representatives (EWRs) and Health Service Providers (HSPs), the girls raised the issue of having safer spaces for playing. This led to a discussion around the issue of substance abuse and its gendered nature in the meeting as in the playing space; some boys and young men were engaged in substance abuse. Due to this, the girls were not being allowed to play there by themselves.  The participants in the meetings decided to further, take this issue up and start conversations about it with other groups in the village.

Through this phase, we also aim to work with young women between the age group of 17-19 years, on building their leadership and advocacy skills. The work with this group has just started in the month of January. The sessions with these girls will also lead to the girls doing an action project in their villages as a collective. CREA believes in the role of collectives for powerful and sustainable change. Through the program, the idea is also to build these strong collectives of young girls and women in all the villages. The work with the 17-19 years old young women and girls is yet another element for furthering this belief.

Dec 23, 2019

Let the Girls know about their Rights!- SELF Academy 2019

Comic making and storytelling
Comic making and storytelling

“The first and most important thing is that girls must have the information about what their rights are. If they knew that football is also meant for girls, is when they will demand or ask to play the sport too. If she also thinks that it is not for girls and has been told constantly by everyone else; she also has no idea that girls can also play football. She will start believing in this and will not be able to question it. I got the chance to know; I play football and want every girl of my area to know this. “- Neha (name changed), SELF 2019 participant from Mahoba, Uttar Pradesh.

 “I am the first girl of my area and home who has come out to stay out of her village/home for 15 days. I live in a joint family, my mother and father had no problem sending me but, my uncles were asking many questions. I lied that I had applied for a course and got selected and going for it. I had no confidence to tell them the truth and why I wanted to go. Here, at the SELF academy, I have gained tremendous confidence to speak my mind, what I want. I feel confident enough to tell my uncles what I have learnt here and what I want to do in my life.” – Jiya (name changed), SELF 2019 participant from Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh.      

These are some of the experiences and understanding of young women leaders who participated in the SELF Academy 2019 organized in Lucknow from 15 – 30 November. Forty-two participants between the ages of 18-22 years attended the two-week long residential academy.  They were from the districts of Bareilly, Lucknow and Mahoba of Uttar Pradesh state.

 This Academy focused on building perspective - on the issues of gender-based discrimination, sexuality, patriarchy, feminist leadership and rights; and skills - of sports, digital literacy, comics and storytelling, theatre and body movement, designing campaigns and leadership of young women to critically reflect and challenge gender-based discrimination and violence, widespread in their context.

 “We all have brains but, we don’t use it.” – Jyoti (name changed), SELF 2019 participant from Mahoba, Uttar Pradesh.

This is a simple statement and a reflection by Jyoti but it speaks volumes on the context of young women and the kind of expectations people have from girls and women. They are not expected to think critically, ask questions, have an opinion and take decisions for themselves. The Academy aimed towards strengthening the voice and agency of young women; facilitated by different faculty members, the sessions helped the participants to learn skills and understand the politics around gender, patriarchy, body, pleasure, consent and violence.  

 “I try to stop myself from asking questions, I don’t feel confident to ask. When I ask questions people, even the girls taunt me. They say that I ask so many questions. They make fun of me. I feel bad that they do not like it. Although, my questions are not related to them, they judge me for asking questions. I write poems but, tear the paper after writing and throw them. Girls say that I copy my poems from the internet, they don’t believe that I can write poems.” – Salma (name changed), a SELF-participant from Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. During the academy, she wrote and showed her poem to us. Her poem was simple yet so powerful, speaking about the freedom, choice and rights that she must have in relation to the decision about her marriage and life.     

 The Academy provided a safe space to the participants to discuss, hold debates, share experiences, learn, find new friends/allies and freely voice their opinions. Over the course of the Academy, young women leaders discussed the ideas and the plan for campaign, which they plan to run in their communities during the 16 days of Activism campaign after they go back from the Academy. Overall, the Academy was successful in creating a pool of young, strong, confident women leaders who are ready to bring the change, not just in their own lives but also for other girls in their communities.

A comic made by one of the young women at SELF
A comic made by one of the young women at SELF
Discussing Love, Desire and Romance
Discussing Love, Desire and Romance
Training and playing Football at the Academy
Training and playing Football at the Academy
During the Theatre and Body Movement Workshop
During the Theatre and Body Movement Workshop
Nov 26, 2019

Update for Global Giving- August- October 2019

“It was so much fun! I loved running with so many people, I have never run like this; in such a big ground, under the sky. As I was running cool breeze also hit me on my face. I also talked to the girls from the other side of the village which we don’t otherwise do.” Said a 15 years old girl from a village in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand. 

 She attended the first sports event, which was organized by YUVA, a community-based partner organization (CBOs) (Lok Prerna Kendra, Hazaribagh and Chatra; Mahila Mukti Sansthan , Hazaribagh; Yuva, Jamshedpur in Jharkhand, Mahila Swarozgaar Samiti, Varanasi; Sakar, Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh)

with whom CREA co-implements the program in East Singbhum and Jamshedpur districts in Jharkhand. The event was organized to mobilize girls for the It’s My Body (IMB) program sessions. Around 30 other girls like her and their mothers joined for this event. This event was part of the process where CREA and its partner organizations are mobilizing and collectivizing girls for the sixth batch of the IMB program. 

YUVA is CREA’s newest partner organization in Jharkhand for the IMB program. YUVA’s work is majorly with the Adivasi (tribal) population of this area. These villages, where the IMB program has started with YUVA, are remote villages where people do not get the benefits of various government schemes and are often not aware of the rights, which protect them. 

The dominant communities exploit women and girls from these communities in multiple ways; sexually, socially and economically. This exploitation is based on not only their gender identity but also their community’s identity, which lies at the lowest ranks of the Indian Society. 

All of this increases restrictions on their access to various services related to health and well-being. Their socio-economic position due to the structured discrimination they face also results in interrupted education and early dropping out of schools especially in the case of the girls. 

With this context, we are looking forward to the participation of these girls in the IMB program as they reclaim spaces, assert their agency and exert greater control over their bodies, sexuality, health, reproduction, and lives. Through the IMB Program, CREA and YUVA together aim to challenge the unjust norms of gender and sexuality, especially through sports. 

In the field of work of our partner YUVA, one can observe that the willingness to learn, grow and ensure that their girls gain knowledge and information was a lot. The challenge is to ensure that the services and information about various aspects, which affect their life, reach them. 

Playing sports enables the girls to come out, play together in public spaces and challenge various social norms around gender and sexuality, which restrict their access to public spaces, health services, and greater mobility for all women. 

The aim is also to increase and strengthen their self-confidence among women and girls to question, resist, and speak up against the discrimination and violence they face. This would enable them to exert greater control over their bodies enabling them to make their own decisions. As these girls from the most marginalized sections grow, they take other people of their community forward; they are empowered and they will empower others. 

YUVA has been working with various communities around their livelihoods. It works around ensuring the reach of various livelihood based programs’ benefits of the government to the tribal communities. It has worked with women to form Self Help Groups for a sustainable income through the projects, which the SHGs take up as well as to collectives’ women for larger causes. YUVA has also developed the government schools in the remote villages in a way that the students are motivated to come to school and learn. YUVA actively uses football to advocate for the cause of gender justice. 

The enthusiasm and excitement, which the girls and their mothers are showing in these villages, is motivating for all of us. 

“I think we are going to learn about our bodies and our health, maybe we will know more about periods…and we will play also every time we meet! I want to know more about how my body has rights? What are the rights I have? Mera Sharir, Mera adhikar (My body, my rights; the name of the IMB program in Hindi) (She said the name aloud and wondered.) 

 -Participant (15 Years Old) before the first session of the IMB program 

In addition to YUVA, CREA will continue to work with its existing partners in U.P and Jharkhand - Mahila Mukti Sansthan in District Hazaribagh, Lok Prerna Kendra in District Chhatra from Jharkhand and SakarBareilly and Mahila Swarojgar Sanstha, Varanasi from Uttar Pradesh. 

We have kick-started the program, with an extensive Baseline study to map the existing attitudes, mind-sets, behaviour and practices in these communities towards sports, sexual health and rights, gender norms, mobility, desires and so on. A participative tool of social mapping was used to map the households, resources, and power in the villages. This process was an attempt to identify the most marginalized communities of the village. 

A few girls from the previous batches of the IMB program helped with the process of social mapping and baseline study. One such girl who was a part of the IMB program organized by our partner organization Sakar in Uttar Pradesh said, 

“I think I would want to work in a NGO and do social work! I enjoyed the process of doing the social mapping and helping the research team. I got to know so much more about my village”

As the baseline study ended, we also had our second training of trainers in New Delhi with 22 trainers from across all the partner organizations. The training focused on working with various groups from different marginalized identities. The training also did intensive sessions on mobilization and facilitation ideas for the trainers during the program. 

 Immediately after the Training of Trainers, the partner organizations started the curriculum-based sessions with the girls. 

CREA is also working towards digitizing its internal reporting systems and processes. With the partner organizations, CREA has been working to create a digital reporting template and an app to improve and increase the efficiency of monitoring and reporting at CREA.

In this phase of the program, to strengthen our leadership and advocacy components and improve the sustainability of the program, many new elements are being introduced. Some of these include leadership and advocacy training for the older girls, Action Projects led by the girls (17-19 years old), excursion trips to police stations, hospitals, fields of work of other partner organizations; we are aiming to look at the Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Freedom from wider lenses. 

The program has enrolled around 1400 girls between the age group of 12 to 19 years old across 40 villages of Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. Each partner organization has also identified 5 schools each with which they would be working. Elected Women Representatives, Health Service Providers and Female schoolteachers across these 40 villages have also been identified with whom the IMB Program will work. 

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