Ajay (name changed), is a student in 9th standard in Jhajjar district in Haryana. During one of the ‘Taaron ki Toli’ sessions when gender discrimination was being discussed, he could relate it to his own life. He could clearly see through the differential treatment between him and his sister by his parents. For instance, he was never punished for coming home late whereas his sister was and in fact was often beaten up for the same. This reflection motivated him to take action to ensure that his sister is not discriminated against. Ajay’s determination bore results and his father too realised what he was doing was wrong. Ajay was successful in bringing about change in his parent’s discriminatory behaviour towards his sister. Ajay became an agent of change.
In Haryana, Breakthrough has been working with girls and boys in about 150 schools with a focus on addressing gender based discrimination. This particular programme called ‘Taaron ki Toli’ with an aim of making young girls and boys gender sensitive and enabling them to raise their voices against gender based discrimination has had considerable impact. This impact can be gauged through some of the stories of change that have come out from amongst these young individuals just like Ajay and Rahul.
Rahul (name changed) is in 8th standard in a school in Jhajjar district, Haryana. Rahul too like Ajay realised that there is gender discrimination in his family. He shared that initially his sister was not allowed to go outside and was confined within the four walls at home. He understood that while boys are never questioned for their behaviour, girls are constantly under surveillance. He wanted his family to allow his sister to go out and explore the world just like him and not be restricted. This is where his learning through ‘Taaron ki Toli’ helped him. He discussed his learnings from the programme at home. This enabled him to include his family in a process of change towards gender equality. Through Rahul, his sister got the opportunity to get educated in school just like him.
While Rahul’s support helped his sister overcome discrimination, to be able to identify your own oppression is the first step to fighting it. The next case story is a testimony to this.
Sanjana (name changed) is pursuing her 8th standard in the district of Panipat in Haryana. In her house while her brother is provided with food which is freshly cooked, more in quantity and laden with ghee, she has to adjust with lesser quantities of food or just the leftovers. There is a biased attitude shown by the parents towards the children, in providing education too. While Sanjana’s brother got to study in a private school she was admitted in a government school. Whenever she tried to speak up against this she was beaten up by her parents and her voice was suppressed. ‘Taaron ki Toli’ motivated her to keep trying. At first no one listened to her and there was lot of resistance from the family members. But gradually they started to understand what she was trying to share. After that her father promised that he would transfer her to a good private school.
‘Taaron ki Toli’ aims to enable these students not just to bring about change in their respective schools but also their communities which includes their own families. Young individuals taking up leadership roles, subverting oppressive power in their own ways, spearheading their own movement is a glorious sight. Prerna’s story is a perfect example of this.
Prerna (name changed) is in 8th grade and studies in a school in Jhajjar, Haryana. Prerna took on a leadership role by making effort to give tuition to her friend in neighborhood who is not allowed by her parents to attend school. Prerna, visited the girl’s house, pretending she had come to play with her while she tutored her friend. This continued for four weeks and then it stopped. When asked, what motivated her to do this, Prerna narrated the story of a dear friend (Shalu) whose father was a drunkard and her mother had passed away. After the death of Shalu’s mother and arrest of his father, the daughters were taken by their aunt to her village. Prerna worries that Shalu’s education has been stopped by her aunt. This has had a deep impact on Prerna and has further motivated her to take up steps like tutoring her friend. Prerna, a ‘Taaron ki Toli’ member is an inspiration. As she inspires others with her leadership abilities she also aspires to be an air hostess one day.
All these stories of young students being agents of change advocating for gender equality are what push us to keep moving ahead towards our goal of making violence against girls and women unacceptable. We are expanding our work to Uttar Pradesh and we aim to reach out to 200,00 girls. What we need is your support in doing so. Help us enable many more agents of change such as Prerna, Sanjana, Rahul and Ajay. Help us reach out to more and more girls and boys who can spearhead their own change.