I read an article recently by UNICEF exactly about Adolescent Girls' Empowerment clubs in India. It made me understand that projects like ours are on the rise and are making real in-roads all throughout India. The article reaffirmed to me that if long-term poverty, inequality and gender discrimination are to be eradicated in India, the empowerment of adolescent girls is a necessity.
As UNICEF observed, 'early marriage can lead to a vicious cycle of gender discrimination, illiteracy and high infant and maternal mortality rates'. Girls thus find themselves trapped in a downward spiral of marginalization on multiple fronts. Here's the link to the article in case you're interested: http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/india_58294.html
In my opinion, it's one of the many paradoxes of India that it has some of the most progressive and impressive acts of legislation in the world. For example, child marriage has long been outlawed, and there even exists the right to free and compulsory education of children to act as a buffer to this. The reality on the ground, however, is that there's often a lag between the law on paper and the attitudes and practices of people in society. Of course, this is a massive generalization and there are many exceptions to this. What I'm trying to say, though, is that gender equality remains an uphill struggle in India, which makes projects like ours even more vital.
We know that through this project, progress is being made, minds are being changed, and girls and their communities' are beginning to transcend the mindsets that have long kept girls confined to the house, restricted in accessing education and prone to early marriage.
I met Sonali's family when I visited the project in March (you may remember her, I shared her story with you). They had tried to arrange her marriage a few years ago to a boy that she had never met and against her will. They were at first adamant that she would be married. As Sonali grew in confidence thanks to the project activities and support from Karunaprabha and her team, she was able to resist and insist that she be allowed to continue her vocational training. She now has a job, is earning money independently and when I spoke with her parents they said that they were glad that they didn't get her married young and that they're proud of the life that Sonali has made for herself.
With your support, we can continue changing hearts and minds like this, to create a new generation of empowered and independent women in India.
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