Launched in 2015, we have organised three SELF academies in Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. We thought it was a good time to reflect on the model and curriculum and assess their usefulness and value to the girls. As part of this process, CREA has organised a series of meetings with SELF alumni girls from Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.
Alumni Meeting with Girls, Uttar Pradesh
In April 2018, girls from Uttar Pradesh participated in a two-day meeting organised by CREA. The meeting was very insightful because the girls shared their feedback on the skills that they learned. Please see below some of the highlights from the meeting:
SELF Academy as a space for learning - Girls see a great value in learning skills at the SELF Academy such as computer, football, videography, grassroots comics making etc. As a learning space, girls commented that they really appreciate that all girls are treated equally and the focus is not only on the ones who are “smartest” or the most vocal. They also appreciated that girls are not required to pay a fee. Girls also remarked that they liked that most of the resource persons are women, which makes them feel more comfortable to learn and reflect.
“In the academy, I enjoyed playing football, because no one in my house says that I can play football.” – Participant, SELF 2017, Uttar Pradesh
The sessions on football and computer were ranked as the girl’s favourite sessions. The majority of girls are continuing to learn and practice these skills even after the SELF Academy in their own terms. They also shared that learning these skills were crucial because girls do not often get opportunities, resources and motivation to learn these skills.
A group of girls shared how they have come together to demand for their rights:
“There was no electricity in our village from last 6 months and our exams were approaching. So, we got together and decided to do something about it – we wrote an application to the officials and then went to meet him. He was shocked to see so many girls in his office. We spoke to him, put pressure on him and then finallywe were able to get the electricity. Everyone in the village appreciated it a lot and we were able to prove that girls can also do everything, and this was not just a boy’s job. We felt confident, strong to do this as a collective.” - Participants, SELF 2017
Participation in SELF academy has increased the confidence of girls and has built their aspirations to do something in life. Many of them are negotiating with their families to delay their marriage, pursue higher studies and continue to learn football or computers. Out of 28 girls, 20 girls shared that they are teaching football to other girls in their villages. A few girls are working as football coach. Many girls have started doing regular practice in a stadium. They are also using the skills of operating computers and Internet in their day to day life.
“We don’t get the chance to work on a computer, usually our brothers have access to this and we don’t. At school also, teachers don’t explain everything properly, so we can use the phone to understand things better, access more information. Having the knowledge of this has helped us convince our families, our brothers, our teachers that we can also use it and know how to use it and can be independent.”- Participant, SELF 2017, Uttar Pradesh
Many girls did not select the skills of spoken English, video and film making as their favourite skills because of a lack of resources, opportunities to use them and learn more after SELF. Those girls who selected these skills do see a value in learning them but shared challenges related to not having access to the equipment necessary to practice these skills. They do not have basic cameras to record videos and make films. Few girls also shared that people make fun of them or taunt them when they try to speak in English or make videos.
SELF Review Meeting at CREA
Followed by the alumni meetings, CREA organised a two-day review meeting. Based on all the feedback received from the girls, the following decisions were taken to make SELF more relevant to girls’ lives:
- Duration of the academy will be increased from 10 days to 15 days, as this will give more time to girls to learn and practice skills.
- More perspective building sessions will be included for building a comprehensive understanding on body, gender and sexuality and SRHR
- Elements of Reflection and Analysis will be integrated more strongly into how components of SELF curriculum is implemented.
- Age of participants should be 18 years and above so that girls are better placed to negotiate and take decisions.
- CREA to explore new collaborations to redesign training sessions especially video and filmmaking, grassroots comics and spoken English, as identified by the girls.
Upcoming SELF academy – This year CREA will be conducting two SELF academies in Bihar and Jharkhand in September and December 2018 respectively.