National Girl Child Day is observed on 24th of January every year with the objective of promoting awareness on gender discrimination and ensure more opportunities for girls in the country.
Rupa (name changed) works as an outreach worker (ORW) with Ujwala programme (funded by MAC AIDS Foundation to address sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) of women in sex work) which is being implemented by India HIV/AIDS Alliance in three states of India.
Rupa who is now 30 years old, is the third child of her parents and was not able to continue her studies after seventh grade as she had to travel to another village to continue her schooling, even though her brother was encouraged to continue his education. She also started working with her elder sisters’ as daily wage labourers in nearby fields to increase the household income. As per the wishes of her parents she got married at a very tender age. Post six months of her marriage she moved to Delhi in search of better livelihood opportunities along with her husband. Soon due to difficulty in earning daily livelihood, out of frustration her husband got addicted to alcohol and started abusing her mentally and physically. On the pretext of getting her employed as a maid, he sold her for Rs. 50,000 and pushed her into sex work. Following a raid in the brothel, Rupa was sent to a rescue home for rehabilitation. After coming out from the rehabilitation home, Rupa joined as a peer educator for motivating women in sex work for accessing treatment and services.
Rupa is a mother of two daughters and a sex worker’s rights activist. She guides and motivates her peers on the rights of women, she rescues and helps in rehabilitation of young women in sex work, and builds their capacity to address stigma and gender based violence. She opines that majority of girls in the country are still denied education, many are forbidden to go out and play games like their brothers. Rupa dreams of a bright future for her daughters and she believes that girls must be given equal opportunities in every aspect of life.
The government of India, is running the campaign on ‘Save the Girl Child’ to address the inequalities of gender. However, despite of all the efforts, we have long way to create better future for young girls and women to have safe and protective environment to live their lives free from violence, discrimination and inequality!
The author of this blog is Shamanu Rao, Senior Programme Officer- Ujwala Programme and is associated with India HIV/AIDS Alliance
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