Ahmedabad : Fourteen year old, Sejal Baria was beaming with joy to share her story of grit. Baria, a 10th standard student travelled from remotest tribal village of Gujarat to talk about adolescent girls challenges which are affecting thousands of girls like her in their communities.
Baria and her young team, part of “Dare to Care”, a UNICEF child rights projects, were successful in rescuing three minor girls from getting married at an early age in last three years in her village.
Baria said, “It is common in our part of village to get the girls married before they attain the legal age of 18 years. They get married by 13-14 years. It was not an easy task to convince parents of minor girls to call off the marriage. We took help & support from the village heads to persuade families not to marry the minor girls. We got success eventually,”
Despite the progress in expanding the access of girls to education, health and social services, millions of adolescent girls still face difficult obstacles in their lives, experiencing various forms of discrimination, exploitation and abuse on account of their age and their sex in India. According to National Sample Survey office(NSSO) 2007-2008 report, almost 40 percent of adolescent girls in between 14 and 17 years in India are not attending school. Also, District Level Household & Facility Survey of year 2007-2008 reveals that around 40 per cent girls in India marry before the legal age of 18 years.
Baria was among 11 adolescent girls who came from different parts of Gujarat to share their “Dare to Care” UNICEF initiative with popular Delhi Daredevils team of Indian Premier League(IPL). As part of the UNICEF initiative, these girls have been trained on child rights issues. Thy have have been doing exemplary work at the village level to fight against social issues like child marriage, child labour, gender disparities, etc.
This was one of the rare occasion when these girls met with national and international cricketing icons in real life. They were excited and talking with foreign cricket players despite the language barrier.
Gopi Boghil, 17 years from rural area from Bhavnagar, said, “Child labour is most rampant in our villages. The families prefer to send their kids to work in fields than in school as it adds to their family income.Our team of 20 volunteers meet parents and convince them that if their children education is continued, they can earn much more than what they earn today.”
“However, poverty does push many children to leave their village and go to work in farms outside their village” added she. Bhogil dreams of becoming an air-hostess.
Moved by the stories of the girls, Jaydev Unadkat, Daredevil IPL players, looking sombre , said. “The confidence among these girls are commendable. They are doing amazing work in empowering other girls. It was a humbling experience to listen to them.”
“As a cricketer our responsibility lies in spreading their message, making people more aware and supportive of adolescent girls situations in the country.”
The Delhi Daredevils team has been advocating for an overall protective environment for adolescent girls through the IPL platform and various other public forums.
Ross Taylor, New Zealand cricketer and part of Daredevil IPL team still reminisces about the infamous Delhi gangrape case. Taylor said, ” The shocking Delhi incident made headlines in New Zealand newspapers,”
After her interaction with the girls, Taylor said,” The language was a barrier but girls were confident in asking questions on cricket. It was humbling experience interacting to them on various issues they face as a girl,”
The three key messages of this initiative are investing in girls education as it is great investment in building her and her family future, no child marriages as it affects their education, lower economic status, less livelihood opportunities, and they have little say in their home and to encourage girls to express and participate more.
It is time we all dare to care to address grave issues affecting half of the population in the country.
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Official Hastag : #DaretoCare
( Communicate Karo was invited by UNICEF India to meet Dare to Care girls & Dare Devil IPL team members interaction )