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Adolescent girls assert their rights for gender justice and equality.

Ika Chaalu” - enough is enough. Adolescent girls assert their rights for gender justice and equality.

Ika Chaalu!

Sharirik Hinsa: Ikka Chaalu!

Mansik Hinsa: Ikka Chaalu!

Laingika Hinsa: Ikka Chaalu!

Enough is Enough!

Physical violence: enough is enough

Mental violence: enough is enough

Sexual violence: enough is enough

Ika Chaalu” has become the rallying cry of adolescent girls in parts of the Indian states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. It is a slogan coined by the girls themselves for a series of workshops organized at the village, district and state levels and attended by activists, policy makers and inspirational figures. They provide a platform where girls can speak up and speak out freely for their rights and shed light on issues of gender justice. When the girls say “Ika Chaalu” they use their voice to explain what they mean: they have had enough of all forms of gender-based violence and the rights-violations that they experience on a daily basis. The girls use this forum to demand access to education until the completion of Secondary School and an end to discrimination in all its forms. These workshops are electrifying events – the sense of empowerment and the clarity with which the girls analyze their situation as they go up to the podium to speak is palpable.

When the M.V. Foundation (MVF) and Charity Fund Rijsholt embarked on a project for adolescent girls in 2014, the main goal was to ensure universal education for girls in the 14-18 age group. MVF’s earlier work included very strong strategies to get all children out of labor and into school, and the project partners believed that the same approach would be useful for the older age-group as well. To start with it was important to document how many adolescent girls lived in the project area, and whether they were in or out of school. MVF staff and volunteers went door-to-door to gather this information. Every adolescent in the project area is now known, furthermore every girl is known, as is her situation - because every girl is important.

Girls’ groups have been formed at village and school levels, and so have “gender committees”- consisting of adolescent boys and girls who come together in a safe space, to dialogue, normalize interaction between boys and girls, foster understanding and enable change. MVF staff are always present to guide these discussions. Adolescents discuss gender issues, share their concerns and problems but also their dreams, and make it ‘normal’ to talk about gender inequalities.

The fact that they are organized in groups makes them stronger, they can support each other and know they have support in actually changing things in their communities, starting first with addressing gender inequalities and injustices within their families.

MVF staff and volunteers – who are a part of the community - speak regularly with parents, teachers, local government and schools to bring the whole community on board. As a result, the attitude within the community towards education and child marriages has significantly changed. The question why adolescent girls should be in school is no longer asked. Instead, there is a consensus that they should not work, nor should they be married, and their place is in school.

Girls who pass 8th and 10th standards, are informed of their options and they are supported in various ways to continue their studies to the next level. When girls are absent or don’t communicate, fellow group-members take action to ensure they don’t drop off the radar. They follow up through the right channels, be it mobilizers, teachers, local government bodies or police.

The structures that have been put in place have made it possible to have an adequate response to the needs of adolescent girls during the COVID-19 lockdown. While the situation is far from ideal, the adolescent groups and the intricate networks created have not disappeared, they have merely shifted online. Parents who had got used to their daughters being in school, were less hesitant to get a smartphone for them to follow online classes. Furthermore, since the adolescents in the project area are now comfortable discussing gender injustice and sensitive issues, they not only have the means but also the vocabulary to continue to reach out and to address their plight.

The girls strengthen their own resolve to fight for their rights and complete their secondary education.

Ika Chaalu: enough is enough is not just a slogan anymore for these girls, not just a rallying cry, but also the basis for action. Girls know it is their right to demand a better future, as well as a better today.

NB: The conventions and group meetings (girls’ groups and gender committees) will start again when the pandemic subsides.



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