Mar 18, 2019

We made it to film festivals across the globe!

Dear Friend, 

We hope you remember our last update on our phenomenal grassroots girl leader Girl Icon Rani. Rani is among the 120 million adolescent girls in India. India is home to largest number of adolescent girls in the world, with a large number of girls living in underserved communities where the deep-rooted social norms along with lack of agency and skills restrict them to explore their full potential.  Rani hails from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, India. The state Uttar Pradesh alone accounts for 21% of the total female adolescent population in India. Over the years we have learnt that when girls are given spaces to explore their potential and to be heard, they develop self-confidence and self-worth. That is why our work focuses on laying emphasis on training and educating girls on social issues, their rights, leadership skills (communication, negotiation etc.) and giving them opportunities to show their ability to implement social action as a collective.

Milaan recognizes outstanding change makers like Rani who seek to make a difference in their communities. Rani is a go-getter in spite of her weak financial background, She makes the best of every opportunity and works effectively with adolescent girls to drive intergenerational and systemic changes to create an equitable and inclusive community. “I want girls to look at me and think they can achieve anything they want,” says 17-year-old Rani. Our lives are driven by stories, stories of common people driving uncommon change in pursuit of creating a better world. When these stories are of adolescent girls from some of the most challenging social, economic, and political backgrounds; they especially fuel and impacts a belief towards nurturing girl leaders to create a more equitable world.  

Rani's journey, aspirations and determination to serve as a role model to adolescent girls in her community and build a movement of girl leaders was documented through a virtual reality film called 'Girl Icon'. On March 11th “Girl Icon” DEBUTED at SWSX in Austin, Texas. The film is directed by Sadah Espii Proctor, this project is part of the Oculus VR for Good Creators Lab program in partnership with Malala Fundproduced by little GIANT Wolf “Girl Icon” features our incredible #GirlIcon Rani. We are making plans to show the film in India. Follow us on Instagram at milaangirlicons, facebook - Milaan be the Change and Twitter - Support Milaan for future updates about Girl Icon and our talented girl leaders!  

Through your continued support, we will continue to build a movement of Girl Leaders who will dare to dream and live in a just and equitable world. Empowered girls are a powerful catalyst to change development outcomes and are a force of social change.

Dec 17, 2018

Trailblazers Diary

"Educating girls will empower them and aware them"
"Educating girls will empower them and aware them"

Rani makes most of every opportunity given to her whether its in classroom or excelling in sports. She happily juggles between attending school, practicing karate or roller skates and helping her mother. Rani is spontaneous and through the program she has built her leadership skills to mentor young girls in her community. Most girls in India do not attend school. Estimates shows that only one out of 100 girls attend school. According to UNICEF 47% of all girls are married before the age of 18.9 

Rani is an advocate for girls’ empowerment. “I want to promote education of girls and tell them that they can be anything,” says Rani. However, her community’s view isn’t the same: they push girls to do household chores, get married young or stay at home. Additionally there is enormous resistance from adults to listen to girls 

“I want to be an Army Officer and encourage girls to break barriers holding us back,” says Rani. She is determined to walk in a path no one has before in her community. The occupation of her community is often determined by their caste, a Hindu system of social hierarchy. Rani comes from a community belonging to the Dhobi (washer man) caste – a caste that follows their traditional occupation of washing and ironing clothes.

Since becoming a Girl Icon, Rani feels more confident. “I have an identity of my own,” says Rani. As part of her projects to drive social change, Rani organized a campaign in her community in Varanasi to understand “why women are always the subject of verbal abuse”. “We interviewed people from diverse backgrounds, from police officers to pandits and shopkeepers. My motive was to aware people about violence against women and to teach them to be respectful towards women,” says Rani. 

Rani continues to dream and forge ahead in her life and bring change in her community through your support. India is home to the largest number of adolescent girls. Adolescence is a critical time of transition to adulthood, most girls often loose their voices and become vulnerable due to lack of opportunities. Investing in adolescence girls has a colossal multiplier effect on children, families and communities. They can break gender norms and up lift social and economic condition of families. Your continued support will help build many more Rani's and bring change in many such lives.

Rani and her peer group girls engaging community
Rani and her peer group girls engaging community
Sep 17, 2018

You made it possible!

        “Education is extremely important for girls. It is a tool to break free and be independent.”

Rajkumari comes from a village called Faridpur where she lives with her parents and five siblings. “Being a girl, I have always felt I didn’t have an identity of my own: I had always been known by my father or my elder brother’s name,” says Rajkumari.

This is the reason why Rajkumari aspires to become a District Magistrate to make her own identity and be known by HER name. When this 18-year-old came to the Girl Icon Program two years back she lacked self confidence. Rajkumari comes from a feudal community where women do not enjoy the same freedom as men. Initially she was not allowed to travel alone outside of her community. “Being a Girl Icon has given me the strength and confidence to fight for my rights. I can travel alone now because my family has the confidence in me and most importantly because I have confidence in myself,” says Rajkumari.

Rajkumari has passed her Class 12 examinations. She wants to pursue higher education but her elder brother discourages her. However, with her father’s support, she knows she will get into a good college. “Milaan has been very supportive. They are a family. They not only support me but they are counselling my parents and helping me to identify colleges. Because of Milaan I can continue my education.” says Rajkumari.

Rajkumari feels she has gained a lot of knowledge around health, gender and rights through the Girl Icon trainings. Her learnings and exposure during the trainings have helped her facilitate better meetings with her peer members. As part of her larger initiative as a Girl Icon, Rajkumari has helped girls in her community go back to school.

I have helped 16 girls from my village to go back to education. It was tough to convince the families, but I was not ready to give up.” The girls are now enrolled in Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh.

You made it possible for Rajkumari  to bring a lasting change in many lives. With your continued support many Rajkumari's are weaving stories that inspire and driving inter-generational and systemic change, especially in economically and socially challenged communities, transforming their communities into inclusive places of opportunity and equality.

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