As an integral part of our family and society, girls and women always bear a sense of responsibility even at a very young age. Yet, a certain level of insecurity still prevails in the Indian society when it comes to the progress of the girl child and women empowerment. I wanted to highlight the countless challenges of young girls who came for the two trainings that were conducted by Alliance India. We had conducted the Ready++ programme (Resilient & Empowered Adolescents & Young People Living with HIV) which was undertaken in response to addressing the emerging need of the sexual and reproductive health, rights and overall growing up concerns amongst adolescents and young people living with HIV who have been a part of Vihaan care and support programme. In this training, we faced particular challenges from parents and relatives of young girls who were apprehensive on sending their girls to a training on sexual and reproductive health. Our programme coordinators would tirelessly assuage the parent’s fears for their children’s safety, but mostly they would try to convince parents on why such kind of training was important for young girls. In India, sex education is rarely given a priority in schools, and in schools located in remote areas, it is considered a ‘no-no’ subject. It is the stigma that girls do not need this kind of education which we were trying to break. The youth in Ready++ training and the young girls in the training are able to then further educate their peers, families and society at large.
Young girls living with HIV face stigma not only for their status, but also when it comes to taking a leap toward broadening their horizons beyond the society’s understanding. For boys and young men, that is rarely an issue. Questions on why girls need education on sexuality and reproductive health issues still prevail deeply in both rural and urban mindsets.
Another ongoing training, as part of Vihaan programme, is the skill building training that is supported by HSBC and Oracle foundations. In this training again, we faced challenges from parents of adolescent girls. Some parents did not want the girls to travel beyond the district that they live in, despite care and support centers of the districts assuring them on the girl’s safety. These trainings have provided skill training and employment opportunities to 154 number of girls in 7 states (MP, Rajasthan, UP, Punjab, Odisha, Manipur, Guwahati) of India, and yet the patriarchal obstacles have hindered the progress of many girls living with HIV we wanted to train and become self-reliant.
At times, when initiatives by Vihaan care and support program and even government is providing opportunities for these adolescent girls to live their live independently and knowledgeably, the gender barriers and the sexist norms of the society constantly impede on the progress of innumerable girls. Opportunities are always available, but let your girls take that leap and grab those opportunities! Let us be ready to educate and train our girls to become more independent and self-reliant and not let our orthodox thoughts prevalent in our mainstream society prevent them from achieving the dreams they want to attain.
The author of this blog is Mona Balani who is the Programme Officer: Care and Support at Alliance India
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