15th Nov, 2017
INTERNATIONAL GIRL CHILD DAY EVENT
13th OCTOBER—DC OFFICE, KOPPAL
The girls of Sphoorthi project took complete advantage of the International Girl Child Day (IGCD) platform. This time the girls did not want just another rally, another cultural program and an ordinary gathering but they were clearly looking to make their voices heard. They wanted to be noticed and heard by decision makers and people with the power to facilitate the change the girls aspire for. The IGCD, therefore, was planned by the girls’ groups and supported by the Sphoorthi team keeping this in mind. The IGCD event effectively drew the attention of the local government authorities, parents and civil society at large, to commit themselves to the cause of bringing an overall improvement in the girl’s quality of life by ensuring that:
The IGCD witnessed the participation of 250 girls from 51 different villages of Koppal. It began with a bicycle rally, followed by a Samvada with the respective departments. The observance of IGCD was to create a platform where the girls could talk about the barriers and challenges they face, create awareness about them and seek the cooperation of the civil society, government departments, their friends and family members to support them in asserting their rights and helping them live in a discrimination free and nurturing environment. The IGCD event had the girls taking the center stage in building awareness of their concerns, both big and small and specifically focused on helping stakeholders understand the unique and unfortunate position of girls who face gender discrimination at home, in schools and in their communities. The event’s call to action was inspiring and motivating enough to drive many key officials to take note of what was being said by the girls. There was no death of enthusiasm, honesty, and determination among the girls. This motivational event was indeed FOR, BY AND OF THE GIRLS!!
Amidst the glorified faces, innocent smiles and solidarity of the girls, Mrs. Fakeeramma, PSI Koppal, inaugurated the bicycle rally by cutting the ribbon and becoming a part of the rally and saying it aloud, no matter where you come from, no girl is less than anyone.
The girls took off on their bicycles from the Koppal bus stop to the DC office covering a distance of about 4 km catching the attention of the entire town. The girls were dressed in blue Sphoorthi T-shirts that had written on them — “I Inspire- rise, grow and lead”. They are the role models to the other girls in their villages. They have risen from the shackles of their helplessness and are growing with confidence and leading many other girls in their villages to achieve the program objectives.
The entire Koppal town witnessed the girls’ proclamation urging to stop child marriage, child labor and motivating every girl to continue education. With the local folk songs and slogans seeping into the air and carrying the voice of the girls everywhere, the commuters saw something different that day in Koppal. The girls seemed strong, united and committed to the cause of their own empowerment.
Inauguration of the event and welcome of the DC
The girls welcomed the DC by giving her a hibiscus plant symbolically handing their concerns of their development and seeking her cooperation in addressing the same.
After reaching the DC office the girls inaugurated their day to bring awareness about the issues concerning their development by watering a plant along with the DC.
Samvada program between the girls and department authorities
After the inauguration, the girls were engaged in a Samvada with the respective government departments. In order to create a conducive environment where the girls can assert their rights and move ahead in life, it was imperative that the girls took a long stride towards identifying and putting their concerns with the respective departments for their awareness and redressal. This Samvada session wherein girls directly engaged with the government departments aimed at:
Following is an account of the messages of all the key government officials and the key questions raised by the girls.
Mrs. M Kangavalli, DC in her inaugural speech mentioned that “It is important for all the girls to get educated and get a job before getting married in life.” She urged all the girls to get married in life only after taking a job. She further said that the girls should not be dependent on anyone financially but they instead should take care of their parents, brothers and sisters.
Theme 1: Problems of adolescent girls
The girls were advised to be assertive and take help of the government departments to stop child marriage cases in the village. The problem related to bus was taken into note and the DC asked to submit a list of such problems to her.
Theme 2: Issues related to health and access to facilities
Mrs. Alkananda advised the girls to use the 104 helpline to lodge a complaint when needed. Regarding the non-availability of IFA tablets to private school children, the RCH promised that once the government approves the order which is in process, the tablets will be provided to everyone.
Mrs. Alkananda who heads the Reproductive Child Health Department told the girls that “Nobody will support you to come ahead in this real life. You will have to come ahead in your life yourself and get your desired position”.
Mr. Krishna Ukkunda, DWCD and Deputy Director, Horticulture Department, emphasized livelihood options for girls and the importance of getting trained in skills like notepad making, papad and pickle making. He said there is a clear market for these products in urban areas as urban women don’t have much time to do household chores. He urged the girls to continue their education and not to drop out as there is a lack of qualified girls for recruitment in agriculture and horticulture sectors, and that the seats reserved for girls are lying vacant. He also emphasized on the spirit of girls and their dedication and commitment to their parents and work. He urged the girls to come above their shy nature and start to assert their rights.
Theme 3: Skill development and empowerment
A school can be made child-friendly only if it encourages the talents of the children. The DWCD officer asked the girls to give a written application to access the public buildings like Anganwadi. Regarding stopping child marriage, the officer said that the girls should inform the government employees like teachers, Anganwadis in the village about any such happenings.
Anup Shetty, Superintendent of Police, Koppal said “There are lots of rights for women and girls but unfortunately the women and girls don’t know about these rights. While talking about child rights, he said the only two things a child should be involved in is to read and play. Regarding more and more cases of sexual violence against women he said that one should not be afraid to talk about sexual violence. One strong complaint can discourage many and if we don’t open up today, there will always be fear and speaking of that after many years won’t make any sense. He also told that girls should be careful and not fall prey to any untrustworthy man, or should not elope for marriage at a young age. He said that first it is important to read and get settled financially, love and relationships should come after that.
Theme 4: Child rights and protection
The SP replied that caste doesn’t bring us any benefits so one should not be concerned about that. The SP also took note of the places where incidences of eve teasing, playing cards on the compound area were high and domestic violence was also high, so he could look into the matter.
Voices from girls
Vasanta from Kukanpally: I participated in a bicycle rally for the first time. It was fun and a completely new experience. It was very nice to meet all these government officials and have a Samvada with them. We should participate in these type of platforms and express our concerns. The solutions offered by the government officials are very helpful and we should practice what they said. This is not the end, whenever we get a chance, we must communicate and in future secure big posts like these government officials. We have the responsibility of taking the Sphoorthi team to a new level.
Roopa from Alwandi- Sphoorthi has offered many opportunities to the girls to come out of their homes and learn new things. Each camp, each exposure, and each training has helped us to move to a new level. It was my first experience to participate in the International Girl Child Day and interact with the D.C. Each platform provided by KHPT has been a step ahead to realize our dreams and we should keep moving ahead.
Many problems related to the girls in accessing education, health, in addressing violence, addressing eve teasing and child marriages were brought to the notice of the authorities. For most of the problems, the department took the ownership. Every department that participated in the Samvada listed all the questions and the respective departments have promised to take action to solve cases related to their departments. A process has already been initiated in this regard.
The International Girl Child Day was also observed in each village in the same format of a rally as well as Samvada with the community leaders and government officials at the village level covering all 51 Sphoorthi- APPI villages.