Women Empowerment

 

Women have the most significant impact on any society, anywhere in the world. This is especially true for communities in rural areas where empowering the women can go a long way in transforming a community. Empowered women can influence the health, education and ultimately the economic upliftment of their families. We believe that empowerment of women should begin early in their lives. To that end we have three tiered empowerment programs catering to the girl child, adolescent females and the adult women. These are described next.

Girl Child (<10 years) Empowerment Program

Due to the prevailing male dominating attitude in India, especially amongst less educated and poor, girls have to face social obstacles and discriminations especially with respect to education. Parents’ expectations of their daughters, in terms of education and employment, are generally much lower than of their sons. As a result, young girls are often not enrolled in a school or taken out early, forced to care for their young siblings and assist with domestic responsibilities. As a volunteer in this area, you will be involved with:

  • Conducting group communications/discussions with young girls
  • Teaching basic English
  • Teaching basic computer skills
  • Teaching basic hygiene
  • Engaging girls in recreational activities such as poem reciting, singing songs, painting, sketching, card-making

 

 

 

Adolescent Girls Program (10-19 years)

Adolescence, defined by the World Health Organisation as the age from 10 to 19, offers a key window to break cycles of poverty. If interventions take place early enough, girls can be supported to stay in school, delay their first birth and build their health, social, and economic assets.

There is a pressing need to invest in the development of vulnerable young women. According to the Coalition for Adolescent Girls, 70% of the word's 130 million out-of-school young are girls. As many as 50% of the victims of sexual assault are girls aged 16 or younger and young women in developing countries are more likely to be mothers before the age of 18 and face a higher risk of dying in childbirth. With the right support, education and resources, adolescent girls can be empowered to change their lives. For example, every year of schooling increases a girl's individual earning power by 10–20%, while the return on secondary education is even higher, in the 15–25% range. India has about 20% of the world’s adolescent girl population. Adolescent girls in India live in extremely harsh conditions and their lives are strongly influenced by the behaviors and attitudes of the groups and individuals within their three main environments of home, school and work.

Home

Within the family, gender discrimination towards adolescent girls stems from deep-rooted patriarchy and manifests itself in the widespread preference for a son. A female child is seen as a burden, while a male child is seen as the future of the household as he will continue to support his parents. As a result, the opportunity cost of investing in a daughter’s wellbeing in terms of health, education and overall growth, is often outweighed by the future potential returns associated with a son.

Adolescent girls are often seen as “women in training” and face a disproportionate burden of household chores such as cooking and caring for relatives and younger siblings, which consume most of their time and restrict their mobility. Often, parents view this confinement as desirable as it keeps girls out of the public arena and reduces the chances of developing relationships with boys and hence high-risk sexual behavior. The taboo surrounding sexuality also keeps parents from having much needed discussions on topics related to menstruation, sexual intercourse and pregnancy with their daughters.

Societal pressures to protect the adolescent girl result in parents forcing their daughters into marriage before they reach the legal age of 18. However, girls’ lives do not improve after marriage – rather they are forced into a culture of silence as they move from their parents’ home to their husband’s home. Among married women aged 15-19, autonomous decision making and mobility is very low with only 38.6% involved in decisions about their own health. Not only are adolescent brides psychologically unprepared for the challenges associated with marriage, there is evidence that women’s bodies, under the age of 21 are not sufficiently developed for healthy childbirth. Youth fertility accounts for more than half of India‘s total fertility, with 44% of married women in the 15-19 age group having one or more children. Research estimates that adolescent pregnancy accounts for nearly $100 billion of lost potential income in India. This is equivalent to almost two decades of global humanitarian assistance.

School

Parents with limited resources typically prefer to invest in their sons’ education. Poor infrastructure, such as inadequate toilets for girls and predominately male teachers, dissuades parents from sending girls to school. Menstruation is also a significant barrier to adolescent girls’ schooling. Parents and families typically fear that with the onset of puberty, girls who are allowed to attend school will engage in romantic and sexual relationships and as such dishonor their families. This resistance is even greater if schools are located at a distance from their homes.

As a result of lack of interaction with adolescents of the opposite sex, boys have a skewed perception of girls, which leads to destructive behaviors such as verbal and sexual harassment. Often dismissed under the relatively innocuous label of ‘eve-teasing’, these acts can have a severe negative psychosocial impact on girls and increase their risk of dropping out of school. The public education system offers little in terms of support to help adolescents understand these behaviors, which stem from the rapid physical and psychological changes they are going through.

Work

Due to lack of appropriate and adequate education, adolescent girls are typically forced to work in the informal sector with low wages and high risk of exploitation (physical and sexual) and sometimes slavery.

 

The Adolescent Girls Program offers volunteers an opportunity to contribute through:

  • AIDS prevention camps
  • English training workshops
  • Computer training workshops
  • Sexual health & hygiene awareness camps
  • Self esteem enhancement camps
  • Breast Self Examination training camps
  • Training on micro credit
  • Conducting adolescents discussion forum where they can discuss their concerns on various issues openly
  • Sensitization program on Drugs

Volunteers can also assist organizations such as CORD in paralegal training for adolescent girls (pertaining to women related laws, Right to Information Act and basics of Indian Judicial system) and training on filing First Information Report (FIR), women related offences under Indian Penal Code.

Volunteers will also get an opportunity to contribute to special government sponsored programs for Adolescent Girls - Kishori Shakti Yojana (KSY) and SABLA.

Kishori Shakti Yojana (KSY): Launched in 1997 and implemented as part of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), this government program seeks to empower adolescent girls, so as to enable them to take charge of their lives. The program through its interventions aims at bringing about a difference in the lives of the adolescent girls. It seeks to provide them with an opportunity to realize their full potential.

The objectives of the scheme are as follows:

  • To improve the nutritional and health status of girls in the age group of 11–18 years.
  • To provide the required literacy and innumeracy skills through the non–formal stream of education, to stimulate a desire for more social exposure and knowledge and to help them improve their decision making capabilities.
  • To train and equip the adolescent girls to improve/upgrade home–based and vocational skills.
  • To promote awareness of health, hygiene, nutrition and family welfare, home management and child care, and to take all measure as to facilitate their marrying only after attaining the age of 18 years and if possible, even later,
  • To gain a better understanding of their environment related social issues and the impact on their lives and
  • To encourage adolescent girls to initiate various activities to be productive and useful members of the society.

SABLA is a nationwide program with similar objectives. Launched in 2011, SABLA, a centrally sponsored program of Government of India, is the first comprehensive scheme addressing adolescent girls’ empowerment through three main areas: nutrition, life skills education and vocational training.

The objectives of the program are:

  • Enable the Adolescent girls for self-development and empowerment
  • Improve their nutrition and health status.
  • Promote awareness about health, hygiene, nutrition, adolescent reproductive and sexual health (ARSH) and family and child care.
  • Upgrade home-based skills, life skills and integrate with the National Skill Development Program (NSDP) for vocational skills.
  • Mainstream out of school adolescent girls into formal/non formal education.
  • Provide information/guidance about existing public services such as Primary Health Centre, Community Health Centre, Post Office, Bank, Police Station, etc.

The overall goal of this program is to assist adolescent girls to enhance their self–esteem and acquire skills and knowledge, which equip them to perform a productive adult role in society.

Adult Women Program (19+ years)

This program focuses on women above 19 years of age and is aimed at increasing their self esteem, building computer literacy, build English reading, writing and speaking skills, developing general awareness, health education and development of self-employment skills. To that end, the volunteers participate in:

  • Self esteem building exercises/interactions/classes
  • Teaching computers
  • Teaching English
  • Creating general awareness about the world, economy and society in which these women live
  • Promoting healthy food habits, teaching sexual health & hygiene
  • Teaching self employment skills – making paper bags, special art & craft skills, food processing