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Mar 2, 2020

Advancing Gender Equality with Safe Spaces

Girl Icon 3rd residential training
Girl Icon 3rd residential training

Dear Friend, 

Nearly 120 million adolescent girls in India are charting their way forward. For most of these girls, the opportunity to move freely in the community becomes limited at the onset of puberty. Lack of safe spaces impeded their growth, confines them within their homes and leads to lost opportunities for girls.

Having a space that feels safe is truly a privilege, making us reflect on how small things that we take for granted can be so empowering and valuable for girls from socially and economically backward communities. 

Safe spaces are especially important for girls, each Girl Icon fellow creates safe spaces within their communities where girls come together to learn, engage in activities related to their diverse needs, participate in decision-making processes and freely express themselves. 

Girl Icon (GI) Jyoti from Uttar Pradesh leads a peer group of more than 25 adolescent girls, 25 determined young girls striving together to fight social norms that restrict their potential. She has actively worked with her community members and has built one of the most active peer-groups. 

GI Jyoti holds a peer meeting every fortnight for 2 hours in her community for the girls. The opportunity to interact in a safe space enables them to access education, pursue a career, recreation and even engage with friends and peers which plays a vital role in their overall development. This connection makes them feel less isolated and helps them develop more effective coping mechanisms.

With your continued support, GI Jyoti recently completed her week-long 3rd Residential leadership training as a part of the Girl Icon Program. At the training, she learned about relevant Government Schemes for the benefit of adolescent girls launched by the government. After returning back to her village, Jyoti briefed her peer group girls about the Govt schemes and was successful in opening 10 bank accounts under the schemes - Sumangla Yojana and the Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana.

Jyoti says “now people in my community look up to their daughters for inspiration and strength. Every daughter born in the village is now an occasion of celebration.” The fact that the people are equally happy to have either a girl or a boy goes on to show that Jyoti has emerged as an extraordinary grassroots leader. Last month, she was recognized and awarded by Amar Ujala in their ‘Betiyon ka Samman’ initiative. 

Safe spaces are crucial for the development of girls from adolescence to adulthood. It provides them with the opportunity to gather and participate in diverse activities or to talk and engage in meaningful dialogues. As a consequence, safe spaces are powerful platforms for healing, empowerment, and resilience and are crucial to advancing Gender Equality. 

Your donation goes a long way in creating lifetime change leaders like Jyoti! Continue supporting us to achieve generation equality by 2030 for millions of girls in India. 


Dec 2, 2019

The Power of One!

Hi there,

Sipping your morning cup of tea, take a minute and think back to your younger years — was there someone in your life who encouraged you to take on challenges? Did you have a place where you can gather with friends and openly speak your mind or get information? Did you have someone to look up to for career guidance? Your answer to one of these questions may be “yes”, but unfortunately many young people are not so privileged, especially girls in India.  

Today, We are experiencing a youth surge with the number of adolescents and young people at an all-time high. Globally 600 million adolescent girls stand at the crossroads between childhood and adulthood. 

Importantly, the largest population of adolescent girls live in India, most of these girls live in underserved communities. As they stand at these crossroads, so do communities at large – the crossroads between losing out on the potential of a generation or nurturing them to transform society. 

In 2015, we met 14-year-old Khushboo who lives in a conservative low-income community in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. The picture for girls in Khushboo’s community is even bleaker, they are questioned on their simple choice to wear a pair of jeans or even when they look out of the window. Most of them have no hopes or dreams. 

Uttar Pradesh alone accounts for 20% of India’s adolescent girls’ population. Even today, 39% of adolescent girls aged 15-18 are not attending any educational institution, and a vast majority, around 65%, are "either engaged in household activities, are dependents, or, are engaged in begging, etc". While the problem is severe, it’s not insurmountable!

Amidst these heartbreaking statistics, there are girls like Khushboo who, instead of lamenting their faith, are fighting to make a difference and changing many lives in return.

Meet Girl Icon Khushboo who has been trained to lead as a grassroots girl leader through the Girl Icon program. With the 2-years of focused training, Khushboo has successfully changed the trajectory of her life as well as for children in her community with the power of education. 

Khushboos’ initiative of raising awareness on the importance of education in her community through street plays and skits has brought back 20 children to school.

She believesEducation is the most powerful weapon one can use to change the world.”

When we invest in adolescent girls, we invest in a demographic dividend that will benefit them, their communities and the country for decades to come.

Your support is contributing towards creating change for girls in some of the most marginalized communities. Your donation is helping them complete their secondary education, improving adolescent health, and ending child marriage, gender discrimination, and violence.


Sep 4, 2019

Creating 21 Days of Magic!

Dear Champions,

Guess what happened when we trained 216 GIRL LEADERS and 38 GRASSROOTS WOMEN in 2 states in 21 days? We created MAGIC and occasional chaos!

The girl leaders we call Girl Icons are part of the Girl Icon program. They come to the journey for 2 years as Fellows who are trained to advocate for their rights as girls. The residential Girl Icon Leadership Development training took place in three batches in Uttar Pradesh and Assam from 17 June 2019 to 8 July 2019.

The training focused on building their awareness, knowledge and skills around Adolescent Health, Violence and Risk Taking Behaviour, Building Relationships, My Values, Leadership, Team Building and planning and organizing Social Action projects.

Session on Adolescent Health created awareness on bodily changes during adolescence, body image and nutrition. The girls delved into Menstruation and Sexual & Reproductive Health. The session built knowledge of the biological process of menstruation and debunking demystifying myths and taboos that surround this topic. It also covered the importance of hygiene and good practices during periods.

In Building Relationships session, the girls examined and mapped the good and bad relationships in their lives and how to maintain relationships. The session on Leadership helped the girls identify the traits of a good leader and also reinforced the expectations from them as Girl Icons and a girl leader in the community.

The session on Violence and Risk-taking Behaviour established why adolescence is a time of vulnerability, the dangers of peer pressure & substance abuse and discussed both physical and emotional violence. The session on My Values demonstrated the link between our values and our behaviour / decisions, followed by the importance of values for a leader.

Interspersed throughout the trainings were Mulakat sessions which focuses on providing knowledge, and inspiring and motivating girls to take charge through interactions with notable personalities. This encourages sharing of experiences and learning between guests and girls. Dr. Manoj Shukla, general Manager of Rashtriya Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK), Monika Yadav (DSP, Uttar Pradesh Police), Prof. Mudra Singh (Amity Law School, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh), Anita* acid victim survivor from Sheroes Café in Lucknow, UP shared their inspiring stories to encourage the girls.

The Girl Icons also orgainzed Mehfils where they performed cultural programs highlighting a wide spectrum of social issues through plays, skits, street plays, songs, dances and poems. 

The 38 grassroots women whom we call Sahyogis attended the knowledge sessions with the Girl Icons. Capacity building sessions were conducted for them to equip them with information and skills to work with adolescent girls in their communities.

The Girl Icons have big plans for themselves. They will be organizing one social action project each in their communities. So this year, we will have more than 200 social action projects implemented across 15 districts in the 2 states! 

A big thank you to all!

Milaan Team

Social Action Project plan presentation
Social Action Project plan presentation
Girls discuss their peer meetings
Girls discuss their peer meetings
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