Action 2 - Listen to the voices of girls and women and learn from their experiences

Chhavi Goyal, 30, is a leader with the Bharat Scouts and Guides. As the lead facilitator for WAGGGS Voices Against Violence curriculum in India, she has seen the huge impact that the curriculum and the Stop the Violence campaign is making for young people. She shares how the programme has impacted girls and young women and told us how it’s changed her life too.

112016_India_Chhavi STV orange t-shirts WAGGGS

1. Girls can’t tackle inequality without information:

“Life is different for girls from different parts of India, but wherever they’re from, gender education just isn’t available. Girls have no way to talk about issues like menstrual health, periods or sex education. This means that girls and young women are often misinformed - they’re simply not aware of the facts. As a child I was going on a school trip to a temple. My teacher asked us whether any girls were menstruating. When I said that I was she told me that I couldn’t go to the temple because I was not clean. Girls don’t realize that misinformation like this is a problem. They are told that their husband is their owner and they don’t realize that this isn’t right. These issues are affecting girls from all over the Country.”

2. Guiding gave me a voice:

“I joined guiding when I was 12 and didn’t really know what I was joining. My leaders were extraordinary - they taught me so much. They taught me to become a leader, to look after myself and to do things differently.  I got involved with guiding again after college. I became a Leader and went on a trip to Sangam which really changed my life. We learned about actions we could take to combat HIV/Aids and I began to understand that I had a space, and the power to speak out.  I suddenly realized that I’d always been interested in advocacy – I just didn’t know the word.  Opportunities like this really helped me to grow. At first I faced some criticism from other Leaders for being courageous and for speaking out about issues that mattered to me, but after attending the Stop the Violence training I realized that I had the strength to help other girls speak out. I knew I had to start delivering the programme myself.”

112016_India _ Chhavi painted hands WAGGGS

3. Voices Against Violence is helping girls’ voices to be heard:

 “The first session that we run is always about the myths and realities of sex and gender. At one training that I attended we asked groups to consider whether the statement ‘girls should surrender themselves to their husbands as they know best’ was a myth. One senior volunteer told their group that this was true. When we brought the group back together one of the youngest girls in the group spoke out – she challenged this myth and talked about the importance of consent, discussion and partnership. This girl was empowered – not just to question the myth, but also to question the group and her leaders. The safe space that we offer helps girls to become brave. It helps girls to think about gender equality and to speak out. At the end of that session, boys and girls walked to the local train station with Stop the Violence posters. They were so brave. So free. They’d gone from being extremely reticent to brave, courageous and confident.”

4. Delivering Voices Against Violence to boys and girls is making a huge impact in our Organization:

“Girls and boys aren’t used to learning about topics like this together. In one session that I was leading, I worked with a boy who told us at the start of the day that if girls wear short skirts then they are provoking boys. When he said this, none of the girls challenged him. As the sessions continued this boy was able to talk to girls and understand their perspective. He started to relate their experiences to his mother and his sister. Later in the day a girl stood up and said to him ‘How would you feel? The world is mine and yours – you can roam wherever you want but I have a curfew because the streets are not safe for girls’. By the end of the sessions he was truly changed. He had heard how girls felt and he was able to really understand what other people were experiencing. Thanks to these sessions boys are listening to girls – they’re hearing about their experiences - and they’re starting to challenge their own misconceptions.” 

5. It’s been transformative - for me, for young people and for the Bharat Scouts and Guides!

“Voices Against Violence has really changed my life! It has given me the strength to speak out and to ensure that my voice is heard within my organization. I have worked alongside other young people to embed the programme in our Organization which has helped to show the value and importance of young people. We’ve shown our passion and our energy - to make change, to influence and to lead. As well as showing the value of youth participation, Stop the violence has helped our organization to reach new people. We are the largest youth organization in India and thanks to programmes like this, we are becoming more and more relevant for teenagers - Voices Against Violence really is exactly what this age range needs. 

We’ve done so much already, but there is a lot more we want to achieve. We want the curriculum to become an inseparable part of what we do. We want to initiate conversations with the government of India so that Voices Against Violence can be a part of the curriculum for all children. If gender education was part of the school curriculum we could really change the course of history in the country.

Girls have all the tools that they need already – but to make change happen, they need support and they need to be heard. To change the world women and girls need to be heard by their family first, then their community, their institution and the wider world. Girls have something very important to say. They can solve every problem – I really believe that they have that power within them– so we all need to listen.”


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