Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India

by CREA
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Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
Support A Young Girls Leadership Academy in India
SELF participants at a workshop
SELF participants at a workshop

Chahat (name changed) is a beloved daughter in her family. In a country where families have multiple daughters till they finally have a son, Chahat’s case is just the opposite. She has five elder brothers and two overprotective parents.

Chahat is a 2019 Sports, Expression, Leadership, and Freedom(SELF) Academy participant and is pursuing her bachelor's degree in Social Work. SELF Academy is a residential skill and leadership building program launched in 2015, for a selected cohort of girls and young women leaders to expose them to diverse concepts, and strengthen their knowledge, skills, and their leadership capacities to be self-reliant and independent. Through the use of sports, arts, media, and technology, the academy equips the participants with information, skills, and increased confidence. One of the key sessions at the academy unpacks how girls’ rights are violated under the disguise of protection.

During this session, Chahat reflected on how she never recognized this feature of patriarchy before the academy. While she has flourished with the love she has received, she came to realize that this has limited her bodily autonomy and mobility. With this awareness and enhanced confidence from attending the academy, she started raising her voice in the family and becoming more assertive. Her assertiveness initially got laughed off, but as she persisted in practicing her agency and autonomy, she was threatened with being pulled out of school. One of her brothers even hit her and locked her in a room. She got followed by her brothers every time she went somewhere, but none of these challenges stopped her from being her free and confident self.

Chahat still loves her family, probably even more now. But she has not stopped voicing her opinion. Her family has since accommodated to an extent towards her requests and demands. 

In 2021, CREA launched a “Your Protection does not protect me campaign” to mark the 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence. Chahat attests that the campaign helped her in putting her learnings from the SELF academy into context. She is happy that her family is changing, but recognizes that the fight is long. 

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Frame from a video of the SELF series: Safe space
Frame from a video of the SELF series: Safe space

Priya (pseudonym), who lent her voice for a SELF Academy’s video on ‘Negotiating Life Choices’, has been finding herself to be a more influential agent of change recently. Even though she has always believed in being self-reliant and independent, hearing herself narrate this idea has rendered her even more powerful.

Priya recalls how she proudly showed the video to her mother and explained that the girl in the video was her own representation; she is the girl who wants to negotiate to live her life choices. Through her, the video has reached many more girls–including her friends, inciting dialogues on self-expressions: asserting their choices, expressing their desires and aspirations, going out of their homes, playing sports in their communities, and claiming public spaces for themselves.

CREA believes that deeply rooted cultural narratives hinder progress and social change. But these narratives should not be attempted to be retold from an outside perspective. The largest impact from SELF videos has been about shifting the power of storytelling to the real actors of the SELF academy–the participants.

SELF Academy is a residential skill and leadership academy launched in 2015, for a selected cohort of girls and young women leaders to expose them to diverse concepts, strengthen their knowledge, skills, and their leadership capacities to be self-reliant and independent. The use of sports, arts, media, and technology at the academy equips them with information, skills, and increased confidence that are traditionally associated with boys and men.

You can become a recurring monthly donor for this project to support the ongoing long-term work for the program.  For more updates, follow us!

Frame from a video of the SELF series: Negotiation
Frame from a video of the SELF series: Negotiation

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Girls talking about Safe space
Girls talking about Safe space

In August, 2021, CREA released an animated video series named 'SELF expression' using girls' voices from interviews and the comics they created as part of the SELF academy. The videos give valuable insight into the various topics the girls discussed during the academies, what information they gained, conversations and debates they had for the first time, taboo topics that were spoken about openly, their reflection of these learnings to negotiate in their everyday lives, the creation of a safe space of sharing and non-judgemental learning along with fun and sports! 

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the academy could neither be organised in-person nor virtually because of the lack of digital access and literacy. CREA used this time to develop SELF stories such as these videos, using comics made by girls in the academy, and recorded audio monologues of girls in their own voices. The videos were created on the most crucial themes in girls' lives that were addressed in-depth in the academy. 

The videos showcase strong narratives of how the participants became aware of their rights and how gender-based role expectations restrict and influence their lives, how they worked through these in the academy, often taking the process back home with them and creating ripple effects at home/community spaces. Girls have pushed back against power structures of family and community and negotiated access to technology, spoken out against violence, right to their sexual identity, mobility, bodily integrity and well-being. These videos can also be valuable resources for work and advocacy with adolescent girls, going forward.

You can find the series, as illustrated by Vidushy Yadav, on CREA’s YouTube channel. CREA is currently in the process of disseminating the video through social media, all videos have been uploaded and shared across platforms which were followed by a live session on Instagram to share the process.

Girls and Tech SELF video(Illustrated by Vidushi)
Girls and Tech SELF video(Illustrated by Vidushi)
Girl at SELF academy : Breaking barrier to play
Girl at SELF academy : Breaking barrier to play
Girls on negotiating and challenging obstacles
Girls on negotiating and challenging obstacles
Girls at SELF academy on accessing public spaces
Girls at SELF academy on accessing public spaces

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Exercises on strength of collective power
Exercises on strength of collective power

CREA’s Sports Expressions Leadership and Freedom (SELF) Academy uses sports, art, media, and technology to equip a cohort of girls and young women leaders from diverse socio-economic and religious backgrounds with information, skills, and confidence in areas that are traditionally associated with boys and men. The academy allows young girls to share their lived realities of social norms and restrictions creatively and encourages them to take leadership roles in their respective lives and communities. The following story is about Siya (pseudonym), a young woman who attended two SELF Academies and her journey to expression, leadership, and freedom.

“The only thing that came to mind at that time was the session on Sexuality, Love, Pleasure, and Consent in the SELF Academy. I thought the changed lens and the idea of relationship and love built by SELF Academy is so strong; I won’t let that get ruined by the people in the community”- Siya.

Siya’s expression above is based on the context of her conceiving out of marriage. She had to face a lot of flak from the community for her situation. However, when some of her teammates also started belittling her for her choice, Siya was taken aback.

“I could have faced the community single-headedly, but how to face people who act like friends and feminists but are not?”- Siya

Siya’s Journey to Expression, Leadership, and Freedom The news of Siya being pregnant spread like wildfire. She had to endure mental torture and pressure by her surroundings to abort the child against her will. Her organization even told her to leave her job, claiming that her pregnancy would distort its image. She was beaten up and thrown out of her house by her family members. Amidst all of these severe challenges, she was firm and secure about her decision to give birth. The only support that she got was from her partner.

When things in the organization became very hard for her, she decided to deal with the situation strategically. The organization that she works in has a practice where once in 15 days, team members share learnings of programs they work on innovatively. Siya took this opportunity and organized a meeting. She mobilized 7 girls who had attended the Academy from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and briefed them on what the meeting would look like. The meeting started, and the girls started speaking about learnings from the Academy. All of them had one thing in common, and that was about feminist leadership and sexual and reproductive health rights and choices.

The meeting was very triggering for those who were causing difficulties for Siya in the organization. After the meeting, she posed her questions: why she was being asked to leave, why her choices were not being considered, and why they wanted her to abort. As none of them had any answers to her questions, she continued to emphasize that the work the organization is doing is meaningless if it fails to support its internal issues and challenges that Siya has been dealing with.

The organization and people working there eventually understood what she was trying to express. It took Siya a whole month to convince the people working in the organization and empathize with her situation. After 4 months of pregnancy, Siya married her partner and the baby is now 5 months old. She is still working in the same organization and continuing to challenge prejudiced conduct and when she sees the organization is not upholding the values it promotes.

“Mobilizing girls and building capacity of the organization with them on sex, choices, consent, and pleasure was the best thing and an aha moment for me. I did not realize the impact of the Academy was so immense. I thank CREA for leading the way.”- Siya.

SELF Academy catalyzes broader change that leads to all women being able to enjoy freedom and opportunities by accessing and asserting their rights to public spaces and resources. The academy aims to strengthen voices and connect communities of all women to challenge norms, values, and power structures and push back against violence against them.

Collective Strength
Collective Strength
Discussion on priorities among the participants
Discussion on priorities among the participants
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Art as a medium to address violence
Art as a medium to address violence

“As we continue to fight COVID-19 and where physical distancing might become a norm, we can no longer afford to overlook the violence in our homes and neighborhoods as a personal matter. For me, it has been political ever since I came back from SELF Academy. And if physical distancing is the new normal, why are men beating women, why no physical distancing from abuse?”

Shree(name changed) a college-going girl witnessed violence in her family and her neighborhood. She was very upset to hear, know, and see that men who were coming back home during a lockdown or those who could not move out due to lockdown were perpetrating violence on women and girls. 

She felt something in her triggering, pushing her to do something about domestic violence. She says “SELF Academy gave me a lens, it built my capacity, and if I don’t practice them now, or don’t act now, my going to the academy is of no use”. 

The next day, Shree approached her college. She asked them to provide her with a pass-through to reach out to the community to do domestic violence awareness. She was denied, as during Covid, it was very difficult to move around. But because she did not want to become a mere spectator to violence all around her, she reached out to her friends and said how all four of them could together do something to address the rampant violence. And if not address, at least a try would satisfy them internally. They would be able to share how it was the impact of the SELF Academy (which they had attended) that they could take
such a step.

Their college was responsible for looking after the arrangements for migrant workers returning from other cities. They were in a position to issue pass on an urgent and essential basis. The very next day, she and her other three friends went to their college again. This time, they were ready with the reason why they were asking for the issuance of the pass. When they were told that they wouldn’t be provided with the pass, they convinced them that dealing with violence is an essential service, and they are doing their bit in ensuring that. They added how domestic violence is often associated only with physical abuse, ignoring the fact that it affects women’s mental, verbal, and financial well-being. After more than an hour they were able to convince them and were provided with the pass. They were allowed to conduct awareness program around domestic violence. 

Shree and her friend took this opportunity and decided to do nukkad natak (street play). The idea behind choosing this was to address, and aware people on domestic violence was that people are very tired of the covid situation, burnt out, hopeless, etc. They need some change; anything of dialogue mode would attract nobody. Shree says, “art is central to our lives, that is very appealing, and that’s precisely how we will do what we want to- convey a message against domestic violence. “

All four of them did street plays in the community for ten days. They were told by the women from their neighborhood that the men in the house are now not beating them and seeing the play was a big relief. 

Shree says that violence may still be happening, but her effort definitely decreased the rate. She could at least make people understand that police, college, NGOs, helpline numbers are where women can seek support and those perpetrating violence would be put behind bars. For her, it was one of the most satisfying experiences of Covid, and she gives full credit to SELF Academy and the organization she is associated with. 

Girls in action during an awareness creating drive
Girls in action during an awareness creating drive
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Organization Information

CREA

Location: New York - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @ThinkCREA
Project Leader:
Anuradha Chatterji
Delhi, New Delhi India
$5,651 raised of $30,000 goal
 
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