The Feed

Realising equal rights and ensuring completion of secondary education for adolescent girls are the main objectives of the Ika Chaalu – Enough is Enough project. Achieving this requires a change in social norms in the community, in institutions and among the functionaries of the State. Motivating, informing and mobilizing members of Gram Panchayats (elected local government) to become defenders of girls’ rights is one of the strategies followed by the project. In this blog we will look at some examples from the field of the positive changes that are possible when Gram Panchayats come on board and become allies instead of adversaries.


A space of their own


In the beginning of August 2021 the lockdown was lifted and girls started to meet through the Kishor Balika Sanghams (KBS) or Adolescent Girls’ Committees. They talked about the lockdown, the pressures put on them to get back to work and to get married, parental fears about elopement and problems with online classes. They shared their yearning to get back to school and continue with their education, no matter what. Almost the first issue they decided to take up was to request the Gram Panchayats to give them a space where they could meet and have the KBS meetings. A space that they could call their own.

In Ravulapalli, the youth association which consists mainly of boys (almost as though girls are not to be considered as ‘youth’) asked the girls to vacate the room in their club and carry out their activities elsewhere. The girls argued that if boys’ youth clubs had a space exclusively for themselves, then they too must claim their space. This was the first demand from the girls of KBS groups. In village after village they started to meet the Sarpanches (elected heads of Gram Panchayats) and impressed upon them what they would do if a room was available. For example, KBS members from Dontanpally, Ponnagutta Thanda and Gopularam Panchayats mentioned that they needed a separate space to conduct meetings, start a library and reading room, and for the planning of midday meals for all children and the distribution of KCR (hygiene) kits. It also meant a space where they could sit to plan for the hoisting of the national flag on August 15th - Independence Day.


Together with the Gram Panchayats, girls began to look for accommodation in their villages. The Sarpanches of Dontanpally and Ponnagutta Thanda permitted them to use the Gram Panchayat building and a DWCRA (Development for Women in Rural Areas) building respectively. The latter Sarpanch also got the entire building cleaned. The Sarpanch of Gopularam provided them with accommodation in a building being used by a local youth association. The Sarpanch of Proddatur gave the KBS some place in the Gram Panchayat office and later provided them with a room in the local school. In Parveda, Dhobipet, Laxmareddyguda and Alamkhanguda they were provided with a room in the health sub-centre, the Gram Panchayat office, the local school, and a DWCRA building respectively. The Sarpanch of Madanpalli gave KBS members some room in the Panchayat office for their meetings and they were later relocated to the Anganwadi Centre (childcare centre). The Sarpanch of Thummala Penpahad identified a place for setting up a Centre and library facilities for KBS members. He also promised Rs 10,000 for the purchase of library books. During a visit by a member of the Ika Chaalu team on 19th October, he spoke with a lot of pride about the three KBS’ - Mother Theresa, PV Sindhu and Poorna Malavath - in his Panchayat and assured all of them that he would take action to stop child marriages. The Sarpanch of Patha Suryapet arranged for a room and library facilities and permitted the girls to borrow the daily newspaper that he subscribes to at home, while the Sarpanch of Koti Nayak Thanda provided KBS members with a room for their meetings and also counseled some youth after the members complained that they were harassing girls. In Siddulur the Sarpanch handed over an old Anganwadi Centre building to them after getting it cleaned. In Mylardevarampally, the Sarpanch responded to a petition by KBS members and gave them some room in the Anganwadi Centre and later shifted them to a bigger hall, which doubles as a library.


Girls’ participation in Gram Panchayat meetings


With the renewed confidence that the girls gained from this success, they next sought to be invited to the Gram Panchayat meetings. The Sarpanches of Parveda and Dhobipet have started inviting two girls each by rotation to attend Gram Panchayat review meetings and Grama Sabhas (village general body meetings). Indeed, KBS members and MVF mobilisers from these two Panchayats have been made members of the Gram Panchayat WhatsApp groups and they receive updates on all developments in these Panchayats.


Significantly, several sarpanches have started to participate in the KBS meetings and listen to the woes and aspirations of the girls. The Sarpanches of Madanpally and Kamareddyguda attended a KBS meeting and took not of the fact that buses were not plying to their villages, forcing girls to take the auto rickshaw to school which they could ill afford. They promised to look into the issue. Likewise, the Sarpanch of Thummala Penpahad and Madanapali has not only been inviting KBS members to meetings of Gram Panchayat and Gram Sabhas but has started to attend the meetings of KBS’ as well. When he heard thatShailaja had dropped out of school after being sexually harassed by local youth on her way to college, he responded immediately by warning the youth and motivated the girl to resume her education. The Mandal Parishad President of Vikaraba – a women - is very active and highly supportive of girl child issues. She attended KBS meetings in 4 villages of the Mandal and raised the issues raised by girls about sanitary napkins, lack toilets in schools and non-availability of bus facilities at the Mandal level meeting.


Girls taking up a diversity of issues


The girls have started bringing up a diversity of issues to be resolved by the Gram Panchayats. In Atmakur (S) Mandal they complained to the Gram Panchayat that they had no teacher for English. They made such a forceful case that the Sarpanch negotiated with the District Education Officer and got a teacher shifted to their school. The triumph of the girls was evident when they narrated this incident. Similarly, the driver of the RTC bus that passes through Kotalaguda didn’t wait long enough for school and college-going children from the village to board the bus and also blew the horn just once to indicate that the bus had arrived. A number of children were missing the bus as a result. The KBS brought this matter to the notice of the Sarpanch, who spoke to the driver and set the situation right. The driver now waits for the children to board the bus and leaves only after they have done so. The Sarpanch of Athvelly got some open wells covered, which posed a threat to small children, in response to a petition by the KBS.




Impact on girls


The convincing manner in which the girls engaged with members of local bodies, put forth their demands for exclusive space and negotiated viable alternate accommodation in the village is indicative of the determination and courage they have gained in the Ika Chaalu project. They have gained this strength through their participation in the KBS meetings and the Ika Chaalu conferences. They have learnt from each other as well. Most of them have emerged triumphant in claiming space for themselves in public centers such as the Gram Panchayats, Anganwadi centers and school. In fact, this has not been just some routine activity, but one which has filled them with energy and given the groups legitimacy and strength. Demanding space in the village had a symbolic value at several levels. It proves that they are visible and individuals in their own right, they are strong enough to take up issues for collective action, they are courageous and prepared to fight for justice, and are mature enough to be taken seriously. Girls who were hesitant and shy earlier and did not go out of their homes are now engaging with the Gram Panchayats. Witnessing the impact of their voices on the Gram Panchayats has filled them with pride, self-belief, and self-confidence.


Even a symbolic activity like hoisting the flag on Independence Day has had a profound impact on the girls. Since the timing of the petitions for space coincided with Independence Day celebrations, the girls quickly moved to planning for taking part in the ceremonies. There was a flurry of activity in which they spoke to the Gram Panchayats and youth associations and grabbed the leadership to hoist the flag in the middle of the village. This was significant as it made them feel that they were equal citizens with rights as guaranteed by the Constitution of India and there was no stopping them!




The experience of the Ika Chaalu project has demonstrated that the process of budling social norms towards gender equality and adolescent girls’ education is challenging and slow but it can be done, as witnessed by the following examples from the field:


*The convention for adolescent girls organized by the Ika Chaalu project on 1 December, 2019, took place in Hyderabad just a few days after the brutal rape and murder of Priyanka Reddy. However, instead of despair, this event had an atmosphere of firm resolve and determination. The girls were angry but knew that anger would not change things. They passionately and rationally voiced their claims for freedom from violence and demanded their right to equality. One such voice was of a girl from Hyderabad who said that the project had given her the encouragement to confront, discuss and change her situation. Her message was clear and strong: “how can parents be brave when incidents like this happen. The first action should be ours. We need to oppose this; we need to raise our voices”. A constant refrain of the meeting was that it was wrong that girls should end up paying the price for violence perpetrated by boys.


*As a result of the discussion in the Adolescent Girls’ Committees, girls have started to approach Gram Panchayat’s and claim a space where they can conduct meetings, have a library and reading room, a centre for the distribution of hygiene kits, and plan for events such as hoisting the flag for Independence Day. Many Gram Panchayat’s have obliged and found a conducive and dedicated space where the girls can meet. Some have gone further with the support they have started offering to adolescent girls. A few have taken the unprecedented step of allowing girls to sit in rotation in the Panchayat meetings.

*The lockdown proved to be a difficult time for adolescent girls. With schools closing and families losing their livelihood and incomes, many parents started arranging marriages for their daughters in stealth. However, the girls resisted this, and members of the Girls’ Committees alerted the MV Foundation field mobilisers, who in turn took action. For example, a field mobiliser in Nutankal received a call from a member of the Girls’ Committee that a girl from Yedavelli was due to be married. She contacted the Tehsildar and the Child Development Project Officer (CDPO) and along with the Anganwadi Worker and Child Rights Protection Forum member, the officials counseled the girl and her parents and prevented the marriage.


* During the lockdown, MVF mobiliser Dhanamma got to know from members of the Girls’ Committee that Uma’s parents were planning on getting her married in the second week of May 2021 and that the family were going to meet the priest to fix an auspicious date and time for the wedding. Dhanamma contacted the Sarpanch, who in turn called the priest and warned him against fixing a date and solemnizing the marriage. When the girls’ parents arrived in the priest’s house, he asked them to wait. He immediately called Dhanamma, who called Childline for help. In an hours’ time all the relevant functionaries arrived in the priest’s house. They warned the parents against printing invitation cards or going ahead with the wedding. The Supervisor of the Anganwadi (employed by the department of Women and Child Welfare and officially in charge of the well-being of adolescent girls in her village) was instructed to visit Uma’s home every other day to see if she was safe and has been told that she will be held accountable should Uma get married.


These examples are testimony to the changes in societal norms regarding adolescent girls thatg have come about as a result of the efforts of the Ika Chaalu project. Girls are now able to exercise agency and demand their rights; parents have stopped forcing girls into early marriage and allow them to follow their dream of getting a secondary education; the functionaries of the system are defending the rights of girls; even traditionally conservative bodies like caste panchayats and priests are coming round to the idea of arguing against early marriage and refusing to solemnising marriages of minors. But this process was not without its challenges.

In the course of its work on child labour and education, the MV Foundation conceptualized and developed innovative strategies for changing social norms around these issues (https://www.ikachaalu.com/post/recasting-social-norms-to-eliminate-child-labour-and-universalize-education). The Ika Chaalu project (ongoing since 2014) built on this experience to engage with the social norms that prevent adolescent girls from realizing their right to education and freedom from early marriage, gender discrimination, violence and harassment. While the methodology for changing social norms remained the same, there were certain specificities that had to be resolved in addressing patriarchy.

The process of building social norms around child labour and education had resulted in getting ALL children, including girls, into school till the completion of class 10. However, the continuation in school till completion of secondary education was fraught with gender discrimination and violence on adolescent girls and societal norms of patriarchy came into play in full force. At every step there were biases against girls. Even when the girls had aspirations for higher education, they had to contend with pressures from the family that controlled their time and leisure and restricted their freedom and mobility. Parents feared social stigma and damage to the family’s reputation lest the girl were to fall in love or elope, and even if she were a victim of sexual violence. Girls’ safety was of paramount concern to them. The community too had its own perceptions about the reputation of a girl overstepping her prescribed behaviour. Existing norms about child marriage, sexuality, safety, and the behaviour expected of a girl had to be exposed, challenged and replaced in the Ika Chaalu project. In fact, the gender biases in each girl’s journey to school had to be addressed. Indeed, many more nuances were to be introduced to create an atmosphere in support of girls’ education and gender equality in the family, in schools and other institutions and in public spaces. This made the work with adolescent girls more complex.






Deeper engagement with the family

MVF’s interventions had to start at a micro level with each family, beginning with addressing the family division of labour, access to food and other consumption, leisure, play and friendships. A girls’ claim for equal space in the family was contentious; it disturbed the equations among family members and had to be resolved.

Gradually, norms began to shift. Within the family, new practices of a relationship between father and daughter began to emerge, with girls talking to their fathers about their aspiration for higher education and imploring them not to get them married till they felt ready for it. Norm changes also allowed for the family giving equal opportunity to their daughters and supporting her higher education, even when it involved travelling long distances. It also enabled girls to leave home and live in hostels in their pursuit of education. Parents gained strength to contend with insinuations from the community and neighbours who constantly nudged them with proposals of eligible bachelors for their daughters.

The privileges the brothers enjoyed in a family vis a vis their sisters also changed in support of her education. They too had to share in the domestic chores and take part in work that was seen as a gendered domain. The adjustments in time and space meant a transformation in attitudes of masculinity towards gender equality. From a position where girls ate the left-over food, boys now began to share their meals, having become aware of gender discrimination and its consequences for girls. Indeed, this had the added benefit of encouraging boys to support their mothers against domestic violence perpetuated by their fathers, who were often also alcoholics.


Early marriage

The issue of stopping early marriage was also a contentious one. A new set of groups had to be won over to establish a social norm. The MVF mobilisers had to contend with powerful caste panchayats which reinforced and justified patriarchal norms. Defying such powerful caste elders, who often mediated on issues of marriage, was not easy. Even priests who solemnised and blessed marriages were instrumental in perpetuating discrimination against girls. They were significant barriers to adolescent girl’s education and had to be won over so they would be in favour of girls and against gender discrimination. This meant contending with entrenched traditional forces that had a moral presence in the lives of the people. This had not been the case in the earlier campaigns about child labour and education.

The role of traditional institutions could be contested only when more secular ones such as gram panchayats, schools and the law enforcement agencies were invoked to establish new values of gender equality and education of adolescent girls. But, in the beginning, even the functionaries of the system such as schoolteachers and the police were not ready to accept the idea of girls’ mobility and they even questioned some parents for giving so much liberty to their daughters. After repeated engagement with secular institutions, as well as with caste panchayats and religious leaders, and after seeking their support to be part of the solution and not the problem, they have also changed their stance. They, too, have been sensitised to take action in support of gender equality and girls’ education.

With every instance of early marriage, positions in the community became polarised, with some individuals, family members and neighbours arguing for a girl to be married and others putting forth their views about girls’ education and gender equality, arguing that early marriage was harmful. Unlike the issue of child labour which was specific to the particular families that either employed children or sent children to work, the issue of adolescent girls’ equality and gender discrimination was pervasive, affecting every household in the community, leading to introspection about the unfair treatment meted out to girls and women.


Issues of sexuality and the absence of a vocabulary for open debate

Changing social norms on sexuality required a new vocabulary as such issues were seldom openly debated or discussed. MVF mobilisers enabled the community to be regard instances of girls’ elopement or falling in love as a natural process of adolescence and growing up. Now, these issues are being discussed at the gram panchayat level and girls raise the issue of sexual violence in the Kishore Balika Sanghams (girls’ committees). From a position where sexuality was not a point of discussion at all, clear stands are being taken on the matter in favour of girls. Such dilemmas about personhood and discussions on bodily integrity and autonomy were not explicit in the course of establishing a social norm against child labour and in favour of education.

At first, teachers would not even acknowledge that gender discrimination was an issue in schools and initially resisted the idea of MVF mobilisers advising them on girls’ education. They construed it as a threat to their authority in schools. Due to constant interaction with school teachers, there was a change in their attitude towards adolescent girls. There is no longer policing or surveillance of children lest they ‘fall in love’ or even elope. Friendships between boys and girls are seen as normal. In short, teachers have become more sensitive.


Social Norms and Children’s Agency

There are instances when parents willingly send their adolescent daughters to schools and allow them to study further after they have been convinced by repeated visits from MVF field mobilizers. They gain the courage to take a stand in support of their children as it resonates with what they had always wanted for them.

At the same time there are occasions when it is the girls who gained courage and took the decision to say no to child labour, child marriage and the drudgery of work and to seek an education instead. Such a stand on the part of the girls is often propelled by their participation in the girls’ committees where they experience expressions of peer solidarity. They also get strength when they know that they have persons in the community, among members of gram panchayats, women’s groups and teachers who show concern for them and will support them. They feel empowered when they find that there is a public discussion at bus stops, weddings, and wakes; when they hear conversations about rescuing girls from labour or early marriage. Similarly, girls get the courage to defy existing norms when they see community efforts to trace a girl missing from the neighbourhood, to assess whether she is safe under the protection of her parents or guardians and to help those who are victims of violence.

Ultimately their exercise of agency is based on a ray of hope to escape from forced labour, drudgery and early marriage to freedom and liberty. In turn, it is their innate strength and standing their ground, and not relenting under any pressure, that gives an impetus to the community and members of various forums to go the extra mile in favour of adolescent girls. The girls’ struggle also strengthens the response of public institutions wherein the functionaries of the state are compelled to address urgent and concrete challenges posed by the girls. They can no longer hide behind convenient arguments about structural constraints, tradition, culture or the poverty of the parents but utilise the policies and legal instruments at their disposal to protect children’s rights in a rights-based perspective.

Children’s participation and exercise of agency thus becomes indispensable in bringing about a transformation in their own lives and in building new social norms in the community.





MVF mobilisers and introspection

The role of MVF mobiliser is key to changing social norms. In the case of child labour their stand was strong from the beginning as they themselves came from similar backgrounds. They needed no convincing on the matter. Likewise, they went ahead with mobilising communities for girls’ education. However, when the issue of supporting adolescent girls’ education opened up the debate on patriarchy and gender equality, MVF mobilisers - both male and female - had to contend with their personal practices in the family. The male mobilisers became more and more conscious that there was inequality and were compelled to accept their own limitations and correct them. The female mobilisers too had to assert, and continue to do so, for equality in the family. They had also brought up the issue of gender discrimination in MVF, showing how all pervasive this issue is. This matter had to be addressed and dealt with within the organization and will form the topic of a future blog.

The summer months between April and June are the season for arranging marriages in the State of Telangana. Friends and relatives begin to scout for girls of marriageable age -14 years and above. There are feverish negotiations between the parties for dowry, gift exchanges and scheduling of auspicious dates, and weddings are arranged and celebrated, unmindful of the girl and her aspirations and wish to study.

Changing community norms about child marriage is one of the key strategies of the Ika Chaalu project to ensure that adolescent girls can complete secondary education. Initial actions against child marriage led to tensions and resistance from the parents and families. Adolescent girls participating in the Kishori Balika Sangham (KBS) or Girls’ Committees were fully aware of the consequences of child marriage and that it was against the law. Consequently, they felt empowered to share information with their friends if there was talk in their families of their marriage being arranged. This would provide the cue to project field mobilisers to jump into action to stop the marriage with the involvement of gram panchayats, schoolteachers, women’s groups, and whoever else was seen as an active supporter of girls in the village. If the issue escalated and girls were deemed to be at risk, Childline 1098 was contacted to rescue the girl and keep her in a safe place till the parents were convinced not to go ahead with the marriage. At times, the police registered cases against those who aided and abetted child marriage.


Gradually, determined to study further and dream of higher education and beyond, girls picked up courage and began to exercise agency, even as more and more people in the community came forward to support girls’ education. By the beginning of 2020, all such practices of child marriage were part of history in the Ika Chaalu project area. Parents no longer forced their daughters to get married. Their script changed in a seamless fashion. Questions such as: who will marry our daughter; can we afford the dowry; where will the venue be; who to borrow money from to cover the wedding expenses were erased from memory to be replaced by a new set of questions such as: what is a good high school for my daughter; how far is it from our village; do we admit her in a hostel or seek admission for her in a good residential school; what is a good course for her to pursue after high school. There was no longer any pressure on the girls to get married, nor any debate on ‘why education?’ A remarkable change in norms indeed!


The lockdown due to Covid came as a big blow. With uncertainty about reopening of schools, precarity due to loss of livelihoods and income, a few stray incidents of girls’ eloping or just fears about them being sexually abused, parents of adolescent girls started arranging marriages of their daughters. The weddings took place in stealth. These were the very same parents who were full of pride that their daughters were performing well in their studies and even encouraged their pursuit of higher education.


There was resistance to the arrangement of such marriages by the girls. Members of the Girls’ Committees made phone calls to the field mobilisers and also to Childline to stop marriages. Local institutions such as the Gram Panchayats and Child Rights Protection Forums (CRPF) took a clear stand against child marriage whenever they were alerted, as they had all been sensitized on this issue in the Ika Chaalu project. For example, a field mobiliser in Nutankal received a call from a member of KBS that a girl from Yedavelli was due to be married. She contacted the Tehsildar and the Child Development Project Officer (CDPO) and along with the Anganwadi Worker and CRPF member, the officials counseled the girl and her parents and prevented the marriage.


In another instance in Pedanemila, Lalita – a field mobiliser - received a call about a proposed child marriage, but she could not make it to the venue in time. She rang Childline and persuaded a team of officials to stop the marriage. They visited the girl’s house, but her grandparents denied any plans of marriage. Even the neighbors concealed information and questioned the officials about how they could think that a wedding would be performed during the lockdown. The officials left and the girl was married after four days. This was a huge disappointment for the mobiliser as she had had been instrumental in rescuing this girl earlier from child labour and had succeeded in mainstreaming her to formal school in Class 9. “If only the schools were not closed this girl would still have been studying”, laments Lalita.


At the same time, with the power of the girls’ determination and the alliances that have been built in the community and with local functionaries, many a child marriage has been stopped during the lockdown. Gram panchayats have been asked to make announcements in the village about the laws on child marriage. Priests of all religions have been instructed to verify dates of birth before solemnizing the marriage. Indeed, in one instance, a newly married bridegroom pledged that he would encourage the girl to continue with her education! During the last weeks of May 2021, field mobilisers held a campaign against child marriage in which they met all the members of CRPFs, School Management Committees, Gram Panchayats, as well as priests, caterers, cooks and wedding venue decorators. They were all reminded about the Child Marriage Act and informed that they could be put in jail for aiding and abetting child marriage.


The following is a recent, heartening example of Ika Chaalu field staff mobilizing relevant functionaries to cooperate in stopping a child marriage in the times of the Covid lockdown:


Uma is a bold and gutsy girl who makes friends with boys easily and is fun to be with. She is quite a leader and her presence in the Girls’ Committee meetings contributed hugely to the quality of the discussions held there. She gave confidence to all the girls to open up and speak. Sometime in February 2020, her uncle complained to her parents that her behavior had to be checked as it was rumored that she had “loose morals”. Uma was promptly reprimanded by her parents and she was stopped from attending the Girls’ Committee meetings. Her parents began to control her mobility and put her under watch. In the meantime, the lockdown was announced, and she isolated herself. The field mobiliser – Dhanamma - noticed that Uma changed a lot, she was quiet, cried a lot and would not talk. With counselling and a great deal of probing, Uma revealed that she might not be able to continue with her studies after 10th grade. Dhanamma then met her parents a couple of times and convinced them that Uma was a fine girl, they should be proud of her, and she was good at her studies. She helped Uma to get admission in high school (11th grade) in Suryapet town. Through the lockdown in 2020, Uma went with her mother to work on cotton seed and chilli farms and at the same time attended online classes. It seems all was well till her aunt visited them with a proposal of marriage. Uma resisted fiercely and said that she had nothing against the boy but would like to get married only after completion of her graduation. Given the unpredictability of colleges or schools reopening in the near future, her arguments for pursuing education fell on deaf ears. Dhanamma got to know about the engagement from Uma’s friends in the Girls Committee and found out that the wedding was going to be fixed for the second week of May 2021 and that the family were going to meet the priest to fix an auspicious date and time for the wedding. Dhanamma contacted the Sarpanch, who in turn called the priest and warned him against fixing a date and solemnizing the marriage. When the girls’ parents arrived in the priest’s house, he asked them to wait. He immediately called Dhanamma, who called Childline for help. In an hours’ time all the relevant functionaries arrived in the priest’s house. They warned the parents against printing invitation cards or going ahead with the wedding. The Supervisor of the Anganwadi (employed by the department of Women and Child Welfare and officially in charge of the well-being of adolescent girls in her village) was instructed to visit Uma’s home every other day to see if she is safe and has been told that she will be held accountable should Uma get married.


Could the above series of actions lead to a backlash from the community? Could Uma face sanctions and punishment for exercising agency in defiance of power relations in the family and for exposing her parents to public insult and humiliations? It is our experience that the process of building a social norm is one of resolving conflicts. The success of the project lies in the manner in which the conflicts are resolved. The field staff are trained to follow up with the parents, have a continuous dialogue with them and help them to reconcile to the new reality. Gradually parents come to be convinced that they made the right decision. Others in the community - those who took a stand in favor of the girl and those who opposed it are also contacted. This process eases the tensions and indeed helps in vocalizing the support for girls’ education and their rights. The presence of functionaries and the law enforcing institutions gives legitimacy and a stamp of authority to the entire process of stopping a child marriage. To get them to this stage of commitment is again a process of interface with project staff, the community and the girls themselves. From initial indifference to the issue, the functionaries of the state begin to take pride in the transformation their actions make to the lives of girls. It is in this environment that girls get the courage to act without fear of reprisals, and the agency of the girls reinforces the rest of the community to take a stand.


In times of massive crises, as in the case of the pandemic lockdown, the structural inequities in the system get reinforced. It seems patriarchy is a stubborn and default norm. Yet, it is heartening to see that the efforts of the Ika Chaalu project in building a social norm towards gender equality and girls’ education is not completely lost, nor totally reversed. With girl power and its voice, and the functionaries of the state acting in unison, there is hope.