Girls in India Dream of Strength – In Themselves
*This is an article for our partner Soothe Healthcare
Nearly two decades ago, Kalpana Chawla became the first woman of Indian origin in space. Sunita Williams followed in her footsteps in 2006. While they were raised and trained far from Indian shores, the fact remains that these two astounding women (of Indian ancestry) were breaking barriers and inspiring millions of young girls in their career choices. No longer were young Indian girls making only those choices that were considered 'appropriate' for women to take up.
Today, to add to the list of role models are sportswomen like Saina Nehwal (badminton), Mary Kom (boxing), Deepika Kumari (Archery) among others who have made the choice to pursue grueling training regimes, live away from family, and excel in their sport both nationally and internationally.
These women and so many more are motivating young girls to explore life choices that are different from their mothers and grandmothers before them.
In community outreach sessions, which I attend as part of my work, I have met girls as young as 11 to 12 years old who've shared with me, with some trepidation, their aspirations of becoming teachers, social workers, nurses, engineers and doctors.
13 year old Anita was one such girl who declared that she wanted to join the IPS and become a police officer. These popular career choices aren't surprising except that Anita belongs to a low-income family, as do most of the other girls. The priority for a family like Anita's is to first take care of life's basic necessities like a stable livelihood, food and shelter. In spite of that, she and her friends attend regular school, (which is a huge step for their families to take) are aware of the fast changing world around them and are determined to become independent and stand on their own feet. The biggest source of support for these girls are their mothers – who want their daughters to be all they themselves couldn’t be.
At the end of each session, I have noticed young girls, especially, are keen on clarifying their doubts, they ask questions and have intense discussions among themselves. Why does my brother get a glass of milk and not me? Why does he get to visit a doctor when sick but not me? It's mind boggling how these two opposites coexist in Anita’s world and I am amazed at her steadfastness in admitting, in an open room, her ambitious goals of joining the I.P.S. It's immensely satisfying to see the girls leave the sessions brimming with confidence and an eagerness to try out all they have learnt.
Many agencies are at work in our country to bring education, healthcare and social development to the masses - NGOs, central and state governments, private trusts and foundations and CSR initiatives. But in a country of 1.2 bn people, these efforts aren't enough.
In Paree's (Soothe Healthcare's sanitary pads brand) health and hygiene awareness sessions with young girls and their mothers, we urge them to maintain proper hygiene, eat proper nutritious food and make choices that do not compromise on their well-being. In these interactive Menstrual Health and Hygiene Management (MHM) sessions, we explain the linkages between poor hygiene, diet and physiological and mental health in girls and women. Along with our partners – NGOs/SHGs and government agencies, we educate them on solutions which can effectively help them on the path to good health and hygiene.
Going back to basics, only when both quality education and healthcare becomes available to young girls and women will it empower them to seek opportunities that would have remained merely a dream a few years ago. Then, it is inevitable that these girls will spread their wings and soar as high as they can, into the sky and beyond, fulfilling all their dreams and aspirations.
Soothe Healthcare Pvt. Ltd – Brand Paree is looking for interns/ volunteers in the role of Community Program Associates. For more information click here
Photos: Saina's pic – from her personal FB account; Others: Soothe Healthcare Pvt. Ltd.
By Shilpi Goel, Sr. Manager-Market Analysis, Soothe Healthcare Pvt. Ltd. You can reach her at [email protected]