Women are made to believe that they are strong and capable of taking the ordeal and suffering alone. She thinks she has the capability to hide her pain with a smile on her face. She would likely not utter a word to anyone and in many cases, die a silent death eventually.
I was one of those few lucky Indian girls born into a family, where both parents were well educated and independent. Since childhood we were told that what you become when you grow up, will be because of your education, and irrespective of where you are you should be independent- married or single. Learn to rely on yourself and not on others.
I still remember the words Dean of my post graduate program in Social Work, ‘Do not to be so rigid, once you are in the field it will not matter what your specialisation is. In social work all specialisation will overlap. You cannot compartmentalise that I will deal with A without working on B or C. If you want to bring the change you aspire then you got to learn to look at things in a more holistic perspective’. Now it makes sense to me what she told us almost 3 years back. I was one of those students who, while in college would always say that ‘’I will never work with is women or on women related issues’’, my justification always was that there are enough people working in this field.
My specialisation was in health and development in social work, and I never wanted to work in any other field apart from health specifically mental health. The irony of life is the thing you run away the most, is the thing you will need to face first. It feels like the entire universe is plotting against you to ensure that you accept the situation and stop running from it.
When I heard about VOICE 4 Girls (VOICE) from a friend, I thought it was just another organisation working for women’s empowerment. However after researching the organisation, I realised that VOICE, not only works on ways to break the vicious circles that most women are trapped in, but it would also help me step closer to my vision of seeing children more resilient mentally- not accepting the fate written by others rather voicing their thought and beliefs.
After multiple rounds of rigorous interviews, I was hired to work in an all-girls team at VOICE. VOICE 4 Girls is a young NGO, but WE (VOICE staff and its supporters) like to see it as a social enterprise based in Hyderabad, India that enables marginalised adolescent girls to take charge of their future by imparting critical knowledge, life skills and spoken English through activity based camps. The curriculum covers topics on basic health, safety, rights and future planning while developing strong life skills focused on leadership. VOICE envisions that, given knowledge and agency, all girls will work towards breaking harmful cycles of economic, social and gender inequality in their respective communities.
Working in lower income private schools and governmental schools in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Uttarakhand regions, VOICE encourages girls to become decision makers in their own lives, taking charge of their futures. Their conviction is that when girls are educated and can negotiate for themselves, the can lift themselves and pull out their families/ community out of poverty.
In partnership with the Andhra Pradesh Social Welfare Residential Educational Institutions Society, VOICE has reached over 5,500 girls directly through its camps and over 30,000 girls through the yearlong Sakhi Peer Mentorship Program over the year. It is inspiring to see campers excited about learning various topics, (they would not generally discuss about with anyone) in fun and safe learning environment. (Asking questions it was encouraged and unlike in traditional classroom where you are punished for asking too many questions or labelled as a slow learner)
In India, no one talks about the changes in your body, reproductive health or any other sexually related topic even if you are married. You are just expected to know these things, and most of the time this information reaches to you through grapevine and is often not accurate.
VOICE’s pedagogy of teaching is games, and activity based exploration on the topic, the information is provided by encouraging girls to think about their scenario at present and what they can do to change in future, building capacities.
What intrigues me the most about VOICE is their focus on developing the Life- skills among young girls; and their outlook towards these young girls, the future of this country is strong, not as silent suffers but as change makers. If they are equipped with the right information and skill then they can help themselves and future generations in breaking the vicious circle of poverty. Soon this team and this project became very close to my heart and still remains, I inspire change by raising my VOICE because I believe that girls everywhere should know their rights and advocate for themselves. Every time a girl finds her VOICE, the world becomes a better, safer and more equal place.