Girl children in India have been viewed as a burden for centuries. While initiatives like 'Beti Bachao- Beti Padhao', Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the fundamental right of equality have greatly uplifted the status of girls and women in India. However, in remote areas in the country, women and girls are still seen as a liability to the family. The onus of getting them married, child-bearing and the notion of giving dowry at marriage has further reduced their social status. However, young girls are now taking a stand for themselves and venturing into unchartered territories to fulfil their dreams and make a mark. Sapna Gurjar was in Class 5 when she was introduced to Mahila Jan Adhikar Samiti when they came to their school.
While speaking to The Logical Indian, Sapna shares, "I live in a village, where young girls are married off. I have seen girls as young as six months old have been married, and even though I used to feel that girls should not be married so early, we never understood why it was not good. Then, when the NGO came to my school to take workshops, I got associated with the same to avoid a situation where I might be told to marry".
Encouraging Girls To Pursue Their Dreams
Later, the NGO also encouraged football for the girls to help them gain confidence and empower them to speak for themselves. Sapna's marriage was almost fixed, but she stood up in front of her parents and assured them that she would get married to whoever they wanted, but only after she had her own identity. Taking up football as a game was no cakewalk either; people in the village were uncomfortable with the idea of girls stepping onto the football field with shorts. However, the NGO members made them understand how important it was for a player to be in a perfect jersey to play the game in the best manner.
Sapna describes, "The first time I saw the football, I was so scared of it. When I first visited the ground with shorts, I felt like this freedom could help me achieve everything. The boys in the locality grew uncomfortable seeing girls play well, and therefore, whenever we went to play, they would also come to play cricket. At times, they would set up stumps to shoo us away. However, we spoke to them and made a timetable which allowed both groups to play freely".
Sapna Gurjar is one of the three people selected from Rajasthan to be a part of Young People's Action Team (YPAT) set up by YuWaah (Generation Unlimited in India) at UNICEF, and her work involves collecting feedback that informs steps for improvement in the program. While speaking to The Logical Indian, Sapna shared that she wanted to study hard and become an IAS officer so that she could change the lives of several girls. Secondly, Sapna, the captain of her football team, has set her eyes on the goal of becoming a football coach as well, to encourage female participation in the game.
Talking About Periods Still A Taboo
Another such example is Krishna Sodha, a YPAT member, who started her NGO called Little4Change, which focuses primarily on women, their health, hygiene, environment and the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. Sodha shared that once she started having her periods, she noticed that talking about it was a taboo in her house and the village. Passionate about climate change, she started distributing sanitary napkins to nearby homes. She told The Logical Indian, "Initially, I worked with other NGOs to gain some experience. In 2020, I started with Little4Change. I was already campaigning for climate change on the internet, and I wanted to integrate both problems. Currently, we distribute sanitary napkins to 9 slums in a rural area of our city".
The NGO conducts workshops in rural areas to spread awareness about menstrual hygiene in the first phase. In the second round, they conduct surveys to identify the menstrual choices of women in the area. For instance, they try to find if the women would be more comfortable with disposable or reusable sanitary napkins or menstrual cups and tampons. The need-based demand helps them reach the grassroots level. Krishna's NGO has also started educating children in government schools on climate change. The idea is to make the environment an essential part of the children's lives to ensure a better tomorrow.
She is still a volunteer for causes; she started her organization Little4Change, facilitating people with the correct information and access to awareness on menstrual hygiene management, environmental issues, LGBTQ+ rights, and social evils. She is a physicist and is now pursuing her master's in Climate change Impacts Management by profession but learns from every bit of life.
What Is YuWaah?
YuWaah (Generation Unlimited) believe that if we give space to our young people and support them with the skills, information, tools and opportunities, we can unlock a bright future for them and the so-called demographic dividend. This is why YuWaah has been creating programs like Young People's Action Team, #YoungWarrior, Passport2Earning for young people to ensure that the voices, needs, and leadership of young people, especially from most marginalized communities, are included in developing strategies, initiatives, campaigns and solutions on issues that impact them the most and enable them to experience safe spaces to express themselves to nurture their curiosity, aspirations and innovations.
The YPAT initiative is focused on nurturing youth leadership. Young People's Action Team (YPAT) is a group of young leaders with solid and expansive grassroots networks who have significant experience in policy and practice in the critical areas of Generation Unlimited; education, training, skills, entrepreneurship and civic engagement. The YPAT is being established for the systematic and meaningful engagement of young people in the decision-making process of Generation Unlimited at local, regional and global levels.
YPAT members serve as a sounding board to Generation Unlimited, ensuring that the voices of young people, primarily the most vulnerable and marginalized, are heard by the partnership's governance structures and taken into consideration in planning and operationalization, Members of this team also sit at the YuWaah's Board meetings and provide valuable input along with the other experts on the board - creating a true 'seat at the table' for young people.
Initiatives by YuWaah make a difference by channelling young minds' energy on issues that would impact India and the whole Earth. The Logical Indian salutes the spirit of Sapna and Krishna, who have challenged age-old beliefs and come out victorious in their endeavour of making a change.
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