The inspiring story of Barira's transformation from being shy to be a social change of agent has influenced many lives in and outside the Neemtala slum of Gurgaon. Like many others, her family migrated to Gurgaon from West Bengal in search of better livelihood opportunities. At 15, as the eldest child in the family, she looked after her four siblings while her father worked as a rickshaw puller and mother as a domestic help. Throughout the day she had to make many compromises with her childhood wishes while go through adverse social conditions such as neglect, abuse, harassment and deprivation.
But the change was to happen. Barira joined Sukarya's training program ARSH which stands for Adolescents Reproductive & Sexual Health and FLE – Family life education. These programs run exclusively for the adolescent girls from the slums. The training session made Barira open up and display keen interest in learning every topic and participating in all activities. She was naturally curious to learn new things and came up with questions related to the topics of the training and gradually emerged as a leader and gradually became a very confident girl during the training sessions.
Today Barira is a youth leader for the programs in her community and speaks passionately for the tremendous efforts that were put in through the trainings for her new level of confidence. With her determination she wishes to reshape the life of other girls by leading through her own example helping them overcome the situations of vulnerability they live everyday with. Barira has gathered the courage to fight the social barriers of the community and help her parents change their mindset. Today her parents have become a source of motivation for her to pursue others to be regular for their training and stay connected with the program to overcome challenges within and outside their community.
“We are fortunate to have such a training session in our slum locality as there is hardly any opportunity here to talk about adolescent health”, shares Laxmi, 19, from JJ Bandhu Slum pocket in Delhi. The batch has just started in this locality with adolescent girls & Laxmi was first to hear about the training & has firmly assured the project team to assist in enlisting the girls, disseminating about the training schedule and ensured their participation in training. Her passion to help her peers in her neighborhood has been channelized by Sukarya by acknowledging her as the Lead Girl for the current batch.
“When I met her, she promptly responded to start the batch as the community has significant number of adolescent girls. There was no platform for the girls to discuss about their health issues, challenges they were experiencing, to learn the nuances of this transition stage and how to combat these challenges. Laxmi was quick to help the team in the formation of the batch”, shared Nasim Ahamad, coordinating field operations for Sukarya.
The project team explores lead girls in each batch – provides appropriate hand holding supports in developing leadership skills, builds the confidence to lead the group and develop them act as a resource for the community. “I learnt about coping mechanism while going through different changes of adolescence stage, healthy nutritious intakes and family life education. The trainings are quite helpful for us as the female trainer enables us to get clarifications over many doubts. I have been acknowledged by my peers and they call me Didi (Sister). This gives me immense confidence and pride”, adds Laxmi.
The impact of the program is evident! Sukarya’s Adolescent Girls Empowerment portfolio consciously ensures to develop girls like Laxmi to act as ambassador for change for their community.
The daughter of a laborer father and a housemaid mother, Rani, 13, aspires to be a teacher in a government school. She is determined to work hard, study well, become independent and lend a helping hand to her parents as she grows up.
Rani with her 3 siblings lives with her parents in a highly cluttered and swamped slum community in J.J Bandhu camp in Vasant Kunj, Delhi. Being the youngest child she studies in the 7th grade and has seen her elder sister going through hardships being married at 16. She doesn’t want to go through the same.
She was introduced to Sukarya's Adolescent Reproductive Sexual Health (ARSH) program, a training session aimed to increase the health seeking behavior in adolescent age group and provide them with the right knowledge about various aspect of their growing life. She attended all six sessions of the training with much enthusiasm and motivated other girls of her age group to attend the same.
“Being a member of this group taught me to speak up about myself in school and to my parents", she says, " the physiological and emotional changes brought about by adolescence were frightening to deal with, alone". "My own mother had told me to avoid discussing such issues due to cultural and social stigmas", "however, after ARSH, I have been able to discuss these issues in an appropriate manner and have nothing to be ashamed of".
Today, Rani is a living example for other adolescents girls living in the slums, confident and empowered. They are able to speak out in front of an audience. The ARSH program empowers adolescent girls with the knowledge necessary to take initiatives for their own health and wellbeing.
Moved from West Bengal she has been living with her mother in Tarachand camp of Delhi for last 8 years. She is now 13 and studying in standard 7th in the local government school. She has two younger brothers.
Her mother works as a housekeeping staff for the Airport Authority and barely earns enough to feed her family of four. They live in miserable condition without any access to basic amenities and healthcare.When asked about her father, she could not speak much out of shame. Priyanshi had a rough childhood because of her drunkard, abusive father who used to beat her mother up almost every day. That was the worst phase of her life. Currently, her parents are separated and his father has gone back to west Bengal.
Sukarya’s Project team approached Priyanshi and motivated her to join the training session. She was one of the most active girls in the 3 months training program of the Adolescent Reproductive & sexual health [ARSH] and Gender empowerment. She was chosen the leader of the program and motivated other girls of her age to join the training. After going through the sessions Priyanshi was very confident of herself and was comfortable with the trainers discussing everything related to personal health and safety.
She proudly says, “when it comes to talk about the reproductive health issues, the adolescents, in general, prefer to seek help from relatives or friends and not from health care professionals due to certain level of hesitations and taboos in the society but after this training program those taboos became myths of the past and we came to know what were the right things to do and whom to contact at the time of emergency. Now, we are very much aware of our rights.”
Contact for more information
2021 NE 135th Street
Seattle WA 98125, USA