Shahjani Siksha Kendra (SSK) has been working with adolescent girls since 2015 on the issues of early marriage, low enrollment of girls and their early drop-out form schools. They are working to provide them opportunities for stepping outside their homes, providing educational opportunities and enhancing their self-confidence. SSK organised a kishori sammelan on the 27th and 28th of November 2018. 190 adolescent girls from 50 villages of 3 blocks; Mehroni, Mandwara and Birdha of Lalitpur district attended the event. The event was also attended by some of their parents, Panchayat leaders and teachers. The aim of this event was to bring together girls that SSK is working with and girls associated with other like-minded organisations in a space where they share and discuss their experiences and challenges that they have faced in getting the education they want. The event was designed in such a manner that the plays, panel discussions and sessions were such that they speak the language of the girls, be entertaining while ensuring issue based discussions. At the same time aiming for increasing interaction among girls of various villages.
In the 2 day sammelan, all the girls were given 3 colored ribbons and were divided into three groups. This was done in such a manner that girls from the same group are in different groups so that they can interact with each other. During both the days, a play and panel discussion was conducted with the girls. The play was directed and performed by the girls. The panel discussions also had girls from different villages, their parents and teachers. Topics of the two panel discussions were early marriage and the struggle faced during their education. During panel discussion on early marriage one of the parents, Jyanti shared that she is a single mother and despite the opposition from her family and the community she sent her three girls to school. They have now completed their graduation. She urged the gathering that all the families should promote their daughter’s education.
Three parallel sessions were also conducted which were interactive and creative in nature to promote informal discussion on issues ranging from the girl’s dreams, to inspiring stories of girls, to issue of gender and work, to health, to some general knowledge quizzes. The unique aspect about this sammelan was that these sessions were made informal and games such as snakes and ladder and musical chairs were tweaked in a manner that it took the shape of an issue based discussion. Girls were asked to draw their dreams among others.
In one such session, two videos were shown which showed success stories of girls in otherwise male dominated areas. Following this discussion was conducted with the girls. While discussing one of the sessions after showing the video of girls playing football in Jharkhand, the facilitators asked the girls to talk about the sports that they play and name some of their favorite sports. To this, some of the vocal girls suggested that their families don’t let them play games anymore with boys. To this, after some nudging from her teacher, a girl said that she has the support of her family and that she is a national level volleyball player. Similarly, in other group discussions, the girls suggested that their parents have supported them to drive tractors, which girls otherwise don’t do in their villages.
The result of this format was exciting and truly inspiring as organizers. The same girls who were hesitant to speak during the first sessions were all cramming to speak on the stage by the end of the sammelan. The girls were excited to participate in the discussions and the issues which could have otherwise overwhelmed them became a space for them to enjoy the discussions, participate in them and share their experiences. They shared their interesting experiences, expressed gratitude towards their family who is supporting their education and gave each other strength to continue their studies.