Child sexual abuse is a major problem not only in the city but all over the country. Gender disparity in India is the highest in the world and girls and women face violence, discrimination, early marriage, dangerous pregnancies, and economic immobility even today.

India is home to over 113 million adolescent girls. According to recent figures, over 70 per cent of girls in the country do not graduate Class 10 and almost 50 per cent of the girls are married before the legal age of 18. Girls find themselves in isolated situation in absence of relevant information as they are unable to stand for themselves and some are trapped in social and economic inequality that they are born into.

City-based NGO, VOICE 4 Girls that works for socially and economically disadvantaged adolescent girls in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, has chalked out ambitious plans for the immediate future for these young girls .

Speaking about the works and activities conducted by VOICE 4 Girls, director Anusha Bharadwaj said that an adolescent girl has a unique power and ‘Voice’ believes in these girls through activity based camps.

“At these camps, we give teach them life skills, spoken English and critical information through activities. These girls are between the ages of 11 and 18 years and attend government or low-cost private schools. Most of the girls in low-cost private schools live in urban poverty and belong to families with an annual income of less than INR 1,20,000,” she said.

‘Voice’ provides these girls with some 'critical' information. “Through activity-based camps, we teach young girls about their changing bodies, menstruation, health and nutrition, basic rights (to education, protection from abuse, legal age of marriage), and how to identify and react to the threat of abuse and violence along with differentiating between good and bad touch,” she said.

“In addition, we provide girls with lessons on basic spoken English, life skills like negotiation, problem-solving and conflict-resolution with some emphasis on changing stereotyped perspectives of beauty, gender roles, and perceptions of strength and beauty,” the director added. This information is delivered at camps that are conducted in government and low-cost private schools. To do this ‘Voice’ recruits and trains female college students on the curriculum and teaching methods.

“We see this as a two-tiered change. Young counsellors end up receiving a lot of critical information too and the teen girls at camp feel safe and comfortable learning from, discussing openly and trusting their counselors,” said Bharadwaj. “Today, Voice Camps have reached more than 31,000 girls in the states Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Uttarakhand, with the help of over 2000 young counsellors,” concludes Anusha. 

By Aneri Shah