Anusha Bharadwaj, VOICE 4 Girls
Mission to enable marginalized adolescent girls in India to take charge of their future
Big organizations with big titles make big news. Teach for India, the Red Cross, just to name a few, are household names, but they’re not the only ones enacting change around the world. VOICE 4 Girls is a social enterprise that enables marginalized adolescent girls in India to re-imagine their identities, capabilities and futures. VOICE conducts activity-based camps in government and low cost private schools where girls acquire critical knowledge, spoken English and life skills. The team works with pre-adolescent girls of 6th class till 9th/10th class adolescent girls. Camps are conducted by motivated college students who are hired and trained intensively to impart the curriculum. VOICE’S partners ensure safety, clean and hygienic conditions to the children.
Excerpts from the interview with Anusha
During summer vacations, there is increased likelihood as parents and the community notice the onset of puberty and are eager to ‘settle’ their daughter in a good family. VOICE wants to capitalise on this time to reach out to the girl and equip with her with information and skills that can help her advocate for herself, stay in school, delay marriage and chart out a life of herself.
It’s not an easy journey. As any social enterprise, we face several challenges. Our first and foremost challenge is finding like-minded partners and funders. Our second challenge is scaling the program. Our third biggest challenge is hiring passionate and committed team members.
Summer Camp activities
Her VOICE camps, United VOICE camps and the Sakhi camps. Each camp counsellor has 25 to 30 campers in her classroom. We understand that becoming a confident girl who takes charge of her future is a long process. Therefore, VOICE introduces campers to Her VOICE content through two different curricula – Her VOICE Parichay and Her VOICE Disha. When a girl comes to HV Parichay Camp, she is introduced to to pictures like puberty, menstruation and safety. When a girl comes to HV Disha Camp, she will be introduced to new topics like gender, future planning, education and careers. She will also strengthen her confidence and continue working on leadership skills. In between camps, girls will be given different assignments and tasks to refresh their knowledge and keep them enthusiastic about the next Camp.
Sakhi Peer leadership program
Sakhi Peer Leadership camp trains girls on leadership and prepares them to become peer educators. At Sakhi camp, the girls will be trained on a specially designed leadership curriculum that will introduce them to topics such as community leadership, communication, team building, problem solving, understanding risk and resilience, taking initiative and ethical leadership. After camp, the newly designated Sakhis will return to school and take up twin responsibilities – (1) introducing students of Class 6 and 7 to the VOICE themes, thus preparing them for Parichay camp, and (2) mentoring the younger students. They will also lead some school-based projects that are in line with VOICE mission.
English communication skills are especially important to VOICE programming because they help increase girls’ education and employment opportunities. English language is integrated into topics and activities making it more accessible and fun for the camper.
VOICE classrooms are not a traditional teacher-student environment. VOICE recognizes trust, acceptance, support, equality & respect as major attributes that should be shared between a Camper & a Counselor. Special focus is given to hyper-active kids to be able to control her in the classroom while the shy campers are encouraged through motivation and activities.
There are so many moments in camp that take my breath away. One instance that has stayed with me happened in a remote camp in Rampachow daram, East Godavari District, Andhra Pradesh. It was after the class on Early Marriage where the girls learn about the ill effects of marrying before 18 years of age. When asked what they learnt in camp that day, one shy camper got up and said, “I have a sister who dropped out of 10th class last year and was married off last year. She now has a baby girl and has become very weak. It is only now I have realised the horrific physical, mental and social impact early marriage has on an adolescent girl. I will now focus only on studying and getting a job of my choice. I will marry only when I am old enough and ready to marry”. After all, this attitudinal change and determination is what we hope will come out of camp!
VOICE 4 Girls
H.No. 10-2-9/18/D, A.C. Guards,
Hyderabad Ranga Reddy,