In the course of the work with adolescents and young people, the Population Foundation of India (PFI) has documented a churn in the status quo in states such as Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. Adolescent girls have come together in groups called Kishori Clubs to discuss the issues that nobody will talk to them about, such as child marriage, family planning, contraception, and menstruation. Through the use of social behaviour change communication materials and discussions at these meetings, the girls raised awareness and action on these issues and have even managed to bring a positive influence on the families who are still caught up in ignorant practices that are anti-girl and anti-woman.
By coming together in groups, they have created safe spaces for girls to talk not only about social issues, but also a place to share their dreams.
The girls are not shy and make no pretence of menstruation, and are aware of the need to be able to manage their own menstrual hygiene. In Hardiya village, Rajauli block of the Nawada district in Bihar, they have begun the conversation on menstrual health management and have a system where they pool their resources, contributing at least one rupee a day, ₹ 30 a month, to buy sanitary napkins for every girl in the group. This then becomes a 'bank of sanitary napkins' that will be used to distribute to girls who could not afford to pay. Due to the fantastic success of the initiative, it is now being scaled up in neighbouring areas.
In another example, the girls from the Kishori Club identified 45 cases of child marriage in the Kawakol, Rajauli and Singhwara blocks of Nawada and Darbhanga districts, also in Bihar. Subsequently, the group met and discussed the negative implications of child marriage with the adolescents and their parents. They made compelling arguments against early marriage and also explained to these families the benefits of delaying marriage – the opportunities it presents for these girls like being better prepared physically, mentally and financially. Most of these marriages were stopped.
These girls are creating a tectonic shift in the way they are perceived. By coming together in groups, they have created safe spaces for girls to talk not only about social issues, but also a place to share their dreams and goals or discuss the personal problems that they face at home. There are hundreds of similar, inspiring stories that come out from under the shadows of the mainstream. And more girls are realising that they can dream big and achieve these dreams, they too can move the world.
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