In Focus 12th December, 2014

How Anamika And Her Friends Stood Up Against Sexual Harassment.

When Anamika (name changed), a 14-year old 10th class student of a village in Mangalore district of Karnataka learned that a local boy was harassing her friend for a long time, she was shocked.

Anamika and her friend have recently been part of Breakthrough’s youth leadership training on human rights, gender equality, sexual harassment, domestic violence and related laws. This youth group, whom we met at their school to know what knowledge they have gained and how much they remember from the earlier trainings, surprised us by remembering more than 80% of what they have been taught.

While sharing learnings of the training with her friend, Anamika was shocked to know that her friend has been a survivor of sexual harassment. Her friend identified the same and shared it with Anamika. The friend was further encouraged to share the same story with her parents and friends. Her friends then called the child helpline number and with their support, the girl’s parents visited the school and narrated the authorities what the girl has been through. Without any delay, the school authorities approached the police and arrested the local boy.

Anamika wouldn’t have imagined that her small efforts would bring peace to her friend’s life. While sharing this story, she was smiling and talking loud and clear enough to let everybody in the surroundings know how small things can actually make a big difference. The girls of this group mentioned that earlier they used to feel scared while going back home after school, but now they feel courageous to fights against all odds.

While interacting with this group, we found that these young minds have gone one step beyond and have taken measures to disseminate knowledge about such issues with their families and friends. Though we couldn’t understand their language, their smiles and body language was lively for us.

We had no idea that leadership traits were hatching under the shade of palm trees in those green mountains. Breakthrough helped these leaders bring out their hidden leadership traits. These young girls have been brought up in such a cultural environment that it silences their voice and doesn’t let them speak up in case of violation of their rights, hence restricting their liberty and freedom. This group of young girls and boys shared incidents and initiatives they have taken, for example supporting their friend to come out and speak up against sexual harassment, or a boy helping his mother in household work (cutting vegetables, washing dishes) which according gender stereotypes, is usually considered a girl’s job.

Anamika and her classmates have taken an oath and have showed enough courage to fight back against any human rights violation against them or their community members. This really shows how human rights violations and violence against women are becoming more and more unacceptable. These girls truly show that human rights starts with each of us.

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