In this report we want to bring the attention back to the individual girls by sharing about a girl named Yu Yu. This look into Yu Yu’s life shows a bitter reality, representative of many girls across the country. As young people, adolescent girls are often exposed to adult issues, while still being considered children. These already challenging circumstances are further exacerbated by lower socio-economic standings, with many girls coming from poor or ethnic/religious minority backgrounds. Girls from these backgrounds are often prone to different forms of violence, including discrimination in schools, physical beatings at home, or not having their opinions and input taken seriously.
Apart from Colorful Girls, other social support systems available to girls in their communities are almost nonexistent. By joining our programs, girls have a safe space to speak without judgement and they have access to a network of peers with whom they can develop a strong camaraderie. When home and school environments are not supportive, these girl-friendly networks and spaces are crucial to a girls’ personal growth and understanding of her place in the world around her, and a life without violence or repression.
age 13, from Tanintharyi Region
*name has been changed to protect the girl’s identity
I heard about Colorful Girls (CG) from my friend who told me about the different kinds of topics discussed. I wanted to learn how to protect myself so I joined. In CG Circles, we share our dreams, goals, and hobbies, and I wonder whether my dreams can actually come true someday. At the start, my mother did not approve of me playing sports because of my health, but I disagreed. By doing sports, I feel stronger and am more confident.
I am happy to attend CG activities, but when I go home, it’s a different situation. I get scolded—and as the eldest of six children, I am scolded the most. It is a burden to live in my home. My mother tells me to study hard and insists that I finish all the household chores before I can attend CG activities. Because she has an outside job, she doesn’t like me doing anything apart from housework. I have tried arguing with her about this, but she just scolds me for not listening to her.
I have experienced a lot of violence. Whenever my father comes home drunk, I am frightened, and I hide with my mother. After, my parents fight, and then my father beats me with the back of his sword. I never understand why he would beat his own children. Sometimes, I wonder what good alcohol does, and why it even exists. It is sad that my own family does not bring me happiness. However, this motivates me to think about my own future and what I must do to be a better, more respectful person. I do not know exactly how to face challenges and difficulties that await me in the future, but in my Circle I have learned how to deal with stress and how to protect myself.
My dream is to become a designer. To achieve this dream, I will need to finish high school, learn sewing, and work hard. Sometimes, when I am stressed and have no one to share my feelings with, I cry, read, or sleep. I am realizing that unless I take action, my responses are futile.
Already, I have noticed some changes happening in me since joining CG. I used to be very weak because of my heart condition. I was afraid to talk to boys, and I often wondered how other girls had the courage to speak out. After joining CG, I realized that if these other girls can do it, I can, too. I am starting to see myself as a brave girl.
We have also made great progress with our Girl Peer Research Unit, who are collecting data directly from girls to help measure the impact of our programs on participant girls' lives and behaviors. The original ten enumerators met with around 350 girls in the Colorful Girls programs to collect endline data. From this, we now know that of the girls surveyed…
- 23% more report holding a leadership position in the last six months;
- 28% more "strongly agree" that they are able to make decisions about their future;
- and 25% more report knowing a place to report violence.
This change is huge for girls, in being able to stand up for themselves and imagine a different future where they are more confident and in control of what happens to them and their communities.
Since the endline data collection, the enumerators have met together several times to reflect on the process and give feedback on the project. They’ve also participated in two separate workshops to learn more about research methodology and how to handle the rigors of the workplace. Last month, they were trained on the new baseline questionnaire, which they are using to collect the next round of data. With this practical research experience and exposure, these young women are paving their own pathways leading to increased curiosity and analytical capacity, financial stability, and independence.
As always, thank you for reading and for your incredible support!
GPRU Workshop Round 2