Aarti lives in a small village in our project area. She is one of 4 siblings. Both her parents work as agriculture labourers since they have an exceedingly small piece of land.
She completed the Life Skills Education (LSE) course conducted in her village by Institute of Health management Pachod (IHMP), in 2018. At that time, she was 14 years old, studying in the - 8th standard in the school that is located in her village. Girls can receive only 8 years of schooling in this village school following which they are invariably married off.
Before coming for Life Skills Education (LSE), Aarti was shy and never spoke to anyone. Very often she used to remain absent in school.
Initially, she was not attending the LSE course regularly. IHMP’s LSE teacher complained about her lack of attendance. IHMP’s field staff visited her house to counsel her about the importance of life skills education, how it provides girls with the opportunity to learn about so many things that they do not learn in school. She was also told that if she does not continue with her school education, she will probably be married off by her parents.
That got Aarti thinking!
She started attending LSE sessions regularly and soon realised that she was receiving remarkably interesting information and acquiring useful skills from the LSE classes. She started participating in rallies and street plays. She said – “Suddenly I felt much more confident, I learnt how to communicate with others and persuade them about my point of view, now I am very sure how to claim my rights and entitlements”.
Aarti says – “Ever since I attended Life Skills Education, I am able to take decisions and state my opinions in front of others. This would not have been possible otherwise”.
Aarti’s grandmother brought a marriage proposal for her when she was studying in the eighth class. She told her parents – “You are supporting the education of my brother, similarly you should support me to continue with higher education. I want to study and be self-reliant, only after that will I get married. If you force me to get married, I will call ChildLine No. 1098 to stop my marriage.
Childline 1098 is India’s first 24-hour, emergency phone service for children in need of aid and assistance. During Life Skills Education adolescent girls are taught about child line 1098 in case they are in any sort of need.
Today Aarti is in the 10th standard in a residential school, which is at a distance of about 40 miles from her village. Very proudly she announces that she was able to negotiate with her parents and convince them to let her continue with higher education.
During Life Skills education Aarti also participated in the sessions on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. In the hostel where she now lives, she shared information she had acquired during LSE on menstruation and the importance of personal hygiene during menstruation, with other adolescent girls. Aarti also told girls how to dispose used sanitary napkins.
During one of her vacations, she visited IHMP and requested the coordinator for a copy of the Sexual and Reproductive Health manual. She said – “I want to share information about – physical changes during adolescence, female reproductive system, and menstrual hygiene management, with other adolescent girls in my school. If I have a copy of the manual, I will be able to share more detailed information and show my friends the pictures in the manual”.
Of course, Aarti was given a copy of the manual on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, so that she could share it with adolescent girls in her school.
In the hostel where she stays, she realised that her friends were using cloth as sanitary napkins during their menstrual periods. So, she wrote an application requesting for sanitary pads to be provided, took signatures of all the girls, and gave it to the school principal and their hostel warden. After a short delay, the school authorities arranged to supply sanitary pads, which they sourced from another organisation.
Close to 100,000 girls have gone through the Life Skills education conducted by IHMP over the last two decades. They use the cognitive and practical skills they have acquired for claiming and reclaiming their rights in myriad ways. It is our dream that they will ensure that their generation and the one after them are enlightened and empowered enough to transform the quality-of-life of adolescent girls in this country.