Empowering 200 Girl Leaders in India

by Milaan Be the Change(NGO)
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Empowering 200 Girl Leaders in India
Empowering 200 Girl Leaders in India
Empowering 200 Girl Leaders in India
Empowering 200 Girl Leaders in India
Empowering 200 Girl Leaders in India
Empowering 200 Girl Leaders in India
Empowering 200 Girl Leaders in India
Empowering 200 Girl Leaders in India
Empowering 200 Girl Leaders in India
Empowering 200 Girl Leaders in India
Empowering 200 Girl Leaders in India
Grassroots Girl Leader Suman
Grassroots Girl Leader Suman

A farmer's daughter, 17 years old Suman is articulate and speaks her mind, she hails from a small village in Uttar Pradesh. She is well aware of discrimination girl’s face in her community and shares Most girls in my village are 5th pass, barely anyone makes it to class 8th but that is not the scenario of boys, they are educated and also allowed to travel outside to pursue college while girls are not allowed because parents fear their safety.” 

Uttar Pradesh accounts for the highest number of school dropout girls in India along with the highest crime rate faced by girls and women in the country.  

Suman’s father is highly supportive of her education despite being uneducated himself, unlike her mother who often pushes her for marriage and restricts her. Suman shares that “If you will not try, change will never happen, even if not a huge change happens I'm sure I will be able to bring some change” 

Suman doesn’t like the fact that girls are not allowed to wear what they want, a choice as simple as clothes is also not available to girls in her community. She says “girls are humans too, the way God has made boys he’s made girls too, and girls also have feelings and must be heard equally.” Suman’s mother is not keen to educate her after class 12th, she fears that an educated daughter means more dowry. Suman shares I have made it very clear to my father that I will not get married in a house where they ask for dowry, many people get proposals for me, but my father refuses.” 

Suman aspires to be the first graduate from her village and create a difference for girls in her community. She is working with girls and supporting them to complete their education. She feels proud of lead change as a grassroots changemaker and is confident that it will help her move forward and strengthen support from her family especially her mother. 

Suman as a Girl Icon is empowering 20 adolescent girls in her community by regularly convening them to impart life skills education and providing them with a safe space to take collective action on girls' education. She is one of the active Girl Icons and has been leading community engagement to drive systemic change in her community. She shares “I love attending leadership training of the program, the training is helping me grow, also is helping me to enhance my communication skills. 

With your continued support girls like Suman are challenging gender norms that restrict girls from education and push them into child marriage. You can change the destinies of girls and help them break the intergenerational cycle of poverty by investing in grassroots girl leaders and ensure girls are educated, healthy and safe! 

Leadership Training of Girl Icons
Leadership Training of Girl Icons
Suman with other Girl Leaders at the training
Suman with other Girl Leaders at the training

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Empowering girls through technology!
Empowering girls through technology!

Adolescent girls in marganilised communities of India continue to face adverse effects to their education, safe spaces, health, and safety due to the pandemic. Continued lockdown, school closures and no access to digital infrastructures mean adolescent girls have no access to information, education, or safe spaces. They are burdened with domestic care with a high chance of dropping out of school and increased child marriages.

A report from Malala Fund indicates that 10 million adolescent girls will never return back to school to complete their secondary education. Today, India stands at a critical juncture and at a risk of losing 70 years of progress made in girls' education. 

For India to achieve economic progress, fight the adversities of the pandemic, and break the intergenerational cycle of poverty, adolescent girls play the role of a silver bullet to help rebuild communities and make sure they thrive. 

The Girl Icon Program 2021 has begun its journey with 6000 adolescent girls in three states of India; Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka. We're harnessing the power of technology, life-skills education, and creating safe spaces within the communities for girls to convene, learn and take action. Our work with adolescent girls will ensure they continue their education, return back to schools and take leadership roles in their lives, families and communities. 

Technology has played an important role in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. By providing girls with digital infrastructures such as smartphones and data packs, the Girl Icon Program in the year 2021 is transforming the lives of adolescent girls in some of the most vulnerable communities to fight social barriers to their right to education, health, and safety by giving them the most needed technology. 

We couldn't have achieved this without your continuous belief in young women and our work to build the largest movement of girl leaders in India. Increased and continuous investment towards adolescent girls can ensure we harness the power of India's demographic dividend and prepare young women to join the workforce! 

Your support is EMPOWERING thousands of girls to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty for their families and helping them explore their full potential to achieve their dreams. 

The Girl Icon Program 2021, begins!
The Girl Icon Program 2021, begins!
Engaging girls to use smartphones!
Engaging girls to use smartphones!

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Muskan at her house in Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh
Muskan at her house in Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh

Women all over the world are creating pathways to achieve gender equality, equitable education for all, and reverse climate change. Your support enables us to educate and empower young women in India to lead their families and communities out of the poverty pit and spur economic progress. 

One such young woman supported by YOU is 15 years old Muskan, who hails from a rural and remote village in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The state accounts for the highest school drop out girls and some of the worst gender indicators for girls and women in the country. But Muskan against all odds has emerged as a social champion for girls in her community!

A farmer’s daughter, Muskan’s parents have always dreamed of her higher education so that she can pave a path for her younger siblings, two brothers, and a sister. At the age of 13, passionate to lead change, she joined the Girl Icon Program which helped her to explore herself and identify her goals and aspirations. The training led her to explore more career opportunities and understand how to pave a path towards employment. Muskan loves numbers which led her to pursue a career in mathematics. 

Despite weak economic conditions, her parents have always supported her to pursue her studies. After passing her 10th board exams with flying colors, she dedicated her time to prepare for the entrance test for the Government Polytechnic exam. Despite the lack of facilities in her village, Muskan was determined to WIN and made dedicated efforts. Her determination led her to clear her exam and secure admission to one of the best Polytechnic Colleges in the State. For Muskan, this not only means higher education but also assures her that she will be able to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty for her family. 

Muskan is the FIRST GIRL ever in her village to secure admission to a Government Polytechnic College. YOU made this possible! She has been imparting life skill-based education to her peer group girls in her village for the last two years, Muskan has become an inspiration for them to pursue their dreams. Her selection has further motivated girls in her village to challenge their situations and continue to be educated despite deepening family poverty due to the pandemic. Muskan continues to create a pathway for girls in her village to continue their education and advocate for their rights. She is a role model for girls in her community and is working continuously to bring girls back to school by leading with her example. 

When girls are provided safe spaces, mentorship support, and life skills education they overcome many of the challenges faced by them. Educated girls tend to reinvest 90 percent of their income into their families. This means economic growth, reducing poverty and inequalities faced by girls and women. 

Your support enables adolescent girls from some of the most marginalized communities to use their voice, choice, and power to create a just and equitable world! When you donate it enables a girl to complete her secondary education, delay her age of marriage, have better access to health services and reduce violence. 

 

 




Muskan spending her time in self studies
Muskan spending her time in self studies

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Girl Icon Jyoti stitching masks for her community
Girl Icon Jyoti stitching masks for her community

COVID-19 has changed the world around for each one of us. In India, adolescent girls and women in underserved communities have been most affected by the pandemic. The country recorded a two-fold increase in gender-based violence fuelled by mandatory stay-at-home rules, social distancing, economic uncertainties, and anxieties caused by the pandemic. Adolescent girls were the last and least to be fed and faced the frustration of economic losses and the brunt of the violence. We heard stories of distress, and pain from the communities we work in, but at the same time, we heard stories of resilience and hope from our Girl Icons rising above the challenges to fight in the frontlines in these unprecedented times of humanitarian crisis.  

One such story of hope is Girl Icon Jyoti who resides in a rural community of Uttar Pradesh. During the pandemic, Jyoti could not find sanitary pads for herself, Jyoti was not the only one. Schoolgirls in India are facing a massive shortage of sanitary napkins because schools - a critical part of the supply chain - are closed. This has left millions of teenagers across the country anxious. Most girls in the underserved communities, including Jyoti are dependent on the supply from their school because they can't afford to buy sanitary napkins. Jyoti however realized early on in the pandemic that girls and women in her community who were struggling for food would never be able to buy sanitary napkins. Using online research, Jyoti taught herself how to sew cloth pads at home and taught the same to the group of girls she has been leading and educating for two years. Collectively, Jyoti with five girls from her group taught every woman and girl throughout their village to cut, sew and make their own pads at home. In just 4 days, they covered the village population of 900 people. That’s not all Jyoti stitched hundred of masks for free and distributed to the elderly in her community. 

This truly shows the impact of creating a cadre of Grassroots girl leaders like Jyoti who are committed and passionate about their communities, they are a force for social transformation. With your support, Jyoti has been trained to lead, educate and empower adolescent girls and young women to overcome the barriers that restrict them to explore their potential. The girls in our program have shown some exceptional progress as compared to the national numbers; 40% of adolescent girls don’t complete their secondary education in India, at Milaan more than 95% of the girls have transitioned into secondary education. Even today in 2020, 1 in 4 girls in India is getting married before the legal age of 18, due to Milaan’s efforts with the girls we work with we have been able to bring that number to almost zero. 

In these difficult times we need you more than ever, please continue supporting our girls to ensure they complete their education despite the deepening poverty in their communities and continue to work at the grassroots to achieve gender equality.

Distribution of masks to the elderly
Distribution of masks to the elderly
Masks made by Jyoti for her community
Masks made by Jyoti for her community

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Girl Icon Farheen performing a street play
Girl Icon Farheen performing a street play

Menstruation in India is often seen as a shameful conversation. Studies estimate that 71 percent of girls have no knowledge about menstrual health until after their first period. Women are often described as “dirty” while menstruating and are commonly separated in the home when dining, praying, or participating in other activities. This is due to gender norms that become more prevalent at puberty. In addition, there is no required curriculum surrounding menstrual health in school.

Investing in menstrual hygiene management (MHM) can help get girls back in school. Without access to proper education, resources, girls are often forced to stay home from school during their periods, which leads them to miss anywhere from 10-20% of school days. Sometimes, they drop out of school completely. 

Milaan with the lens that girls are best suited to understand their unique circumstances and hence, must take center stage in their own transformation, empowers and educates adolescent girls on sexual and reproductive health and engage them as agents of social change

Mobilizing girls to take action and lead community engagement is imperative in garnering support and changing the trajectory for respectful, safer, and equitable communities. When girls take collective action they are accepted and heard within their communities.

All the 200 Grassroots Girl Leaders (Girl Icons) you're supporting conducted a social action project (SAP) on menstruation hygiene management in their respective communities with an objective to break the taboos, cultural silence that exists with homes, schools, and communities and impart knowledge on hygienically managing menstruation. 

This itself talks volumes of the courage and resilience they have to fight against all forms of gender inequalities. Girl Icons used several tools to engage with communities such as street plays, community meetings, rally's, etc. Over 20,000 community members were reached most importantly boys and men were actively engaged. 

Girl Icon Priya resorted to the most unique approach. She conducted her social action project on MHM in a temple to break one of the most dominant taboos around menstruation. Girls and women are not allowed to enter temples or prayer rooms as they are considered impure during menstruation. Priya’s unique choice of the place itself talks of the confidence and critical thinking abilities girls have shown while conducting SAPs on MHM. Her grandmother play an important role and supported her throughout the project. 

Girl Icon Aneesha and Deeksha involved boys from their schools and other male members of their community in their SAP. Aneesha’s father supported her in spreading the message on MHM and he even talked about the importance of MHM while addressing the community members. Male members also distributed sanitary napkins. 

The Girl Icon program focuses on nurturing and empowering adolescent girls as social champions to challenge social and gender norms. Leadership is knowing who you are, what you believe, and being able to express your beliefs effectively to influence others. 

Milaan’s Girl Icon program provides essential empowerment training for girls who may not otherwise receive the training; the program is an excellent stepping stone, exposing girls to structural gender challenges and encouraging girls to believe in their own abilities and to foster a sense of self -University of Califonia, Berkeley. 

Grassroots girl leaders care deeply about their issues and their communities. They have a passion that keeps them involved despite setbacks. Strengthening the economic role of adolescent girls and equal participation in their communities is critical, improving health and education outcomes, reducing poverty, and achieving other broad development goals.

Your continued support, especially at such unprecedented times, ensures they continue their education and advocating for girl rights. Your donation is enabling girls to challenge social norms that have restricted them and create new narratives for themselves and others. 

Every donation helps them to lead a safe and respectful life. Please continue changing their lives! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Girl Icon Komal conducted a community meeting
Girl Icon Komal conducted a community meeting
farheen and her peer members educating on MHM
farheen and her peer members educating on MHM
Community meeting to educate community members
Community meeting to educate community members
Girl Icon Shaistha conducted SAP in school
Girl Icon Shaistha conducted SAP in school

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Organization Information

Milaan Be the Change(NGO)

Location: Gurugram, Haryana - India
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @supportmilaan
Project Leader:
Eli Rai
Gurugram, Haryana India
$2,675 raised of $65,791 goal
 
56 donations
$63,116 to go
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