In a pre-dominant tribal slum of Birsamunda Basti, Bhubaneswar lived a 14 year old girl named Heena Murmu (name changed). She was a bright student who would actively participate in sports such as football.
Seeing her keen interest in the sport, a football coach, Mr. Jaydev Mohapatra who had started a program for coaching adolescent girls, encouraged her to join his group. But her parents had other plans for her. They wanted to marry her off as soon as possible since good proposals were coming her way. They thought that this would secure her future and give her a stable life. Heena on the other hand wanted to pursue her passion and live life on her own terms.
During one of Aaina's visits to the slum where Heena dwells, she seeked the help of our staff regarding her situation. She wanted to focus on playing football and get trained professionally. The team at Aaina helped her in convincing her parents not to go ahead with the marriage and to her give a chance to decide her course. She wanted to focus on her education and build a career in sports.
Heena, with some support from Aaina, was successful in changing her parent’s mind. She joined the football training program and is thriving under the mentorship of Mr. Mohapatra. She is working towards creating a future for herself and is one step closer to that each day. Where there is a will, there is a way, and here at Aaina we always lend a helping hand to such kids with dreams to overcome their hurdles.
The global pandemic has been a big blow for everyone but especially the vulnerable section of our society. Women and children have been affected the most and the harmful practice of early & child marriage (ECM) was tipped off to the edge during the pandemic. With schools being shut down there has been a surge in instances of many young women and girls between the ages 16-18 being forced to drop out with no hope for them to return to school ever again. Many young women’s dream of higher studies was crumbled overnight when they were forced into getting married instead. We at Aaina especially now more than ever are actively working towards empowering these young women and educating them about how they should take control of their lives and not feel coerced into getting married. These smart young women have the potential and Aaina is only the facilitator giving them the push they need to break the social barriers and put an end to ECM.
With Aaina’s initiative on the Second Chance Education Project (SCE) it has given a lot of opportunity and hope for women who had to drop out from school but now had this new opportunity to enroll into the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), which is a distance education programme. During this lockdown some close to 378 young women have enrolled to NIOS and the enrollment was made available for free to encourage more young women to pursue distance education. NIOS offered these young women to select their choice of favorite subjects that they are more keen and passionate about. Enrolment to NIOS is available for young women between the age group of 15-35. To just cite one example of the success of the SCE project we will share the experience of Trupti Sahu (name changed) from Pallisantrapur village, Kamakhyanagar block of Dhenakanal, Odisha, of 16 years who had to give up her dream of higher studies due to family’s financial condition and social pressure, she had to marry to a man who was 14 years elder to her. Her in-laws house was in Bagha Basa village,Kankadahada block of Dhenkanal district of Odisha. Seeing her willingness to study Aaina’s staff motivated and encouraged her in-laws to continue her studies. With the help of the SCE project Trupti enrolled herself into NIOS and because of her zeal to pursue her higher studies she is now continuing her education through SCE.
Apart from distance education programme the other two things that team Aaina is proud of under the SCE Project is the increase in farm-based activities converting the bare lands to cultivable lands and the increase in women farmers and their ability to select their cash crop and seeds on their own. The SCE project has also given the opportunity for young women to start their own business while staying at home and developing their enterprising skill. Under the SCE Programme there have been about 9 mobilization activities out of which the no of women mobilized is close to 480. We at Aaina are continually striving to create more opportunities and make young women self sufficient and self-reliant and help them recognize and nurture their potential.
The pandemic has caused unexpected damages to various aspects of human life. The pandemic could lead to an extra 13 million child marriages over the next decade. Other estimates suggest that four million girls are at risk of child marriage in the next two years. The pandemic of COVID-19 now threatens to erase this momentum as the world has been forced to cancel or postpone outdoor activities and events, schools were closed and people had to stay at home. This has led to an economical and social crisis which has added to the risks of child marriage. The impacts of COVID-19 are already being felt harder by women and girls in many areas of life due to gender inequalities, and we see this mirrored in sports. To tackle this issue, Aaina worked more intensely with the adolescent girls groups so that the message of adverse effect of early child marriage could be spread; this was continued through virtual platform even during the pandemic. With the Govt proposal of raising marriage age of girls it became pertinent for us to go for a consultation of young people in this regard as children have a say on matters impacting them. We took the feedback on the issue of the age of marriage clearly emerges only as a subset of this larger canvas as young people clearly do not think that the ‘quality of life’ is limited to marriage and parenting.
“Marriage is not everything” was a sentiment expressed by many of them, across states, categorically. The young girls and youth have spoken scathingly about how their personhood is denied, at every step of their lives, in every arena of their existence. They describe how they are governed by gender equations, expected to unquestioningly follow the diktats of the men, the elders and the powerful decision makers in their communities. They evidently expressed that Marriage age matters to them and they would like to take the decision about when to marry, whom to marry etc than again controlled by Govt rule!
The current Covid19 pandemic that has engulfed the entire world with a death toll of above 271,884 and rising. India too has more than 56,471 detected cases and 1900 deaths so far. Odisha has about 270 reported cases and sadly situation is becoming worse as days passes by. The National Lockdown that was about to end on 14th of April, has been extended till 17th of May. During this lockdown adolescent girls who already faced social lockdown throughout their life are facing even more desperate situation. With all schools and colleges locked down, chances of drop out have increased even more and any possibility of resumption of education has been surrounded by the fear of infection. Under these situations, we are afraid that they might not ever to school again. Normalcy might not bring things normal for them as they might have to face early marriage. To address this uncertainty we are more determined to sensitize people on the need of distance education as an alternative to school education if it fits. Aaina is determined to launch a second chance education initiative for these adolescent girls who are and might drop out from schools.
The Sports for girls campaign, that is one of our flagship effort has entered an exciting stage. We had an intra school football match. A large crowd and cheers is what, we believe shall boost the determination of our flag bearer and so did it! We have managed to form our girls football team in Bhanjanagar and are planning to have more teams from local villages. We have identified 8 interested and talented volunteers, who are recieving footbal training from our coach. These volunteers shall be our local guide who shall train more adoloscent girls and form community level football teams. The teams, so formed shall be provided with jersy and kits from Aaina and shall lead our effort to end gender discrimination and child marriage in their respective villages.
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