Today is International Day of the Girl Child. On this occasion I spoke to girl students from class VI to college at the Seed Narpanigal project in Madurai. The conversation was over Skype.
The girls were eager and very engaged in the conversation. We discussed the changes in the last 20 years – there are many more women in the workforce now. They all intend to continue their education for many years and listed Ph.D., doctor, and police as some of their goals.
One of the things they really like about the center is that they play all types of sports – they have girl Kabbadi teams, girl cricket teams. This is empowering. Everyone is encouraged to learn everything.
The big challenge they discussed was eve-teasing. On the way to school or college men ogle and men tease, even men who could be their grandfather as a girl said. If they discuss with their parents they sometimes get worried and get them married. So sometimes they hesitate to discuss this with their parents. The parents want to take care of the marriage responsibility before any untoward incident. The boys at the center do not engage in eve-teasing, they are taught from the beginning to treat all women like they treat their own sisters. So International Day of the Girl Child should also focus on changing behavior of boys.
The other theme that emerged was freedom. Freedom to travel, and do the things they want to do. Parents naturally fear for their safety, and it is not always possible to convince them. Again, to make the world a safer place for women, men have a big role.
The girls would like their opinions to be listened to more at home. For example there is immense pressure to get daughters married, so often that overrides all other wishes of the girl. A girl’s opinion has to be given all the consideration it is due.
It was a great way to mark the International Day of the Girl Child – listen to the challenges and dreams of the girls at Seed Narpanigal. We will continue to work together to bring the fundamental change of a safer society where girls’ opinions are heard.
Some girl students at Seed Narpanigal