Hosa Hejje Hosa Dishe – ‘A New Step in A New Direction’ – is IT for Change’s adolescent girl empowerment project.
Why adolescent girls:
Adolescence is a significant life phase that marks a child’s transition to adulthood. It brings with it the immense potential for a bright future. However, the alarming silence that looms over adolescence and the needs of adolescents in homes, schools and society makes young people vulnerable to a variety of threats like dropping out of school, child marriage and trafficking. Additionally, the constant policing, controlling and dismissal of adolescent behaviour as unruly and attention-seeking adds to the larger silence around adolescence.
We work with adolescent girls from government-aided schools in Bengaluru and government schools across Karnataka. These include residential and non-residential schools. In order to reach as many schools as possible, we required systemic support and therefore signed an MoU with the Department of Primary and Secondary Education, Karnataka State.
Our interventions also engage with the teachers and parents of the girls, and employ a variety of digital technologies and audio-visual media to facilitate conversations that centre adolescent girls to co-create an ecosystem of empowerment for them.
Our work through the Covid-19 pandemic:
Until the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown, our team facilitated a specially designed adolescent empowerment curriculum for high school girls in classroom sessions in government schools across Bengaluru. We also facilitated workshops for school teachers to help them be responsive to what adolescent girls want from them. To strengthen the relationship between the school and the parents of the girls, we designed an IVRS (Interactive Voice Response System) strategy in which recorded messages with updates from the school were shared with the parents via their mobile phones. This also helped to build a sense of goodwill in the parents, towards the school.
The Covid-19 pandemic had an adverse impact on children going to schools, especially those from marginalised backgrounds. The reverse migration of their parents back to smaller towns and villages, and the inaccessibility of online classes, forced many to drop out of school. Adolescent girls especially were prone to the added risks of child marriage, trafficking and other kinds of sexual violence.
With the shutting down of schools across the state, our access to the girls and their teachers came to a sudden halt. Our existing strategies required a radical redesign. As an alternative to in-person classroom sessions with the girls, we designed ‘Nan Voice Nan Choice’ – a 46-episode community radio programme. Broadcast in four community radio stations across Bengaluru, Nan Voice Nan Choice was created as a platform for the girls to articulate themselves, showcase their skills and talents, and learn about adolescence through interviews of different experts. It featured the girls talking about their everyday lives and the many issues and questions in their minds.
We designed and facilitated two new courses ‘Facilitating Adolescent Empowerment for Equal Society’ for in-service teachers and ‘Gender Justice in Education’ for pre-service teachers via the online mode. Pre-service teachers were roped in to such a course with the vision to build gender-sensitive classrooms for the future.
The past year, in a post-Covid context:
Our work with diverse cohorts had given us valuable insights that became the backbone of our new interventions.
In the five batches of workshops we had facilitated for in-service teachers, the necessity for a continuous engagement with adolescent girls had been a recurring comment. Our experience from classroom sessions with the girls reflected the need for a safe space for them in their schools. We were certain that such a space had to be mediated by a familiar female teacher for it to be a sustainable one in the long run. We believed that such a strategy would be effective in significantly reducing the potential risks the girls would face. This led to the designing of Kishori Clubs – female teacher-led, technology-mediated safe spaces, for adolescent girls in residential and non-residential government schools across Karnataka.
The teachers are trained to facilitate our year-long adolescent empowerment curriculum in the Kishori Club sessions. This curriculum equips the girls with information to better understand themselves and the world around them, and helps to instil a sense of agency in them. The modules cover adolescence and its many changes, the complex bind of patriarchy and gender, identity and body image, nutrition, career building, life skills and cyber safety.
Each module has an audio-visual resource and a help sheet with activities and suggested additional resources, which are accessed online on the Karnataka Open Educational Resource (KOER) website. To ensure that schools that lack technological infrastructure do not lose out, we design flip books on the same modules. The teachers are also supported by a district coordinator who handholds them throughout the year. Our team keeps in touch with the teachers via WhatsApp group interactions and periodic online meetings.
In the past year, we have set up 146 Kishori Clubs in schools in Mysuru and Kalaburagi districts.
Besides the teacher-facilitated Kishori Clubs, we have resumed our classroom sessions through weekly Intensive Labs in four schools – two in Bengaluru, two in Mysuru. In these sessions, we facilitate an adolescent girl empowerment curriculum with the vision to enable girls to build their aspirations, articulate them and outline an action plan towards their dreams.
The pandemic had also brought with it unprecedented access to the internet due to the usage of smartphones and other devices for online classes. We learnt from our interaction with the girls that they were avid users of social media. Given the appeal of the medium and the many threats it poses to adolescent girls (bullying, blackmail, sexism, misinformation, unsolicited photographs to name a few), the need for a social media-based intervention became apparent. On 24 March 2023, we launched Kishori Adda – an Instagram page that serves as an empowering online space to counter the violence in mainstream online media. The posts range from talking about gender, health, digital safety, media influence, and self-love to the occasional fun trivia to keep young people glued to the handle. In October, we ran our first social media campaign on equality – Samanatheya Sambramada Abhiyana (The Joyous Celebration of Equality).
Bringing back the voices of adolescent girls via the audio medium, we also launched our first podcast, Nan Voice Nan Choice, in October this year. The pilot episode is currently streaming on Spotify and SoundCloud.
As we look forward to what the next year brings, here are thoughts from the people we worked with this year:
“I was a participant of the course ‘Facilitating Adolescent Empowerment for Equal Society’ conducted by IT for Change in collaboration with DSERT (Department of State Educational Research and Training). This course supports in creating equal participation of girl children in all spheres and to make adolescent girls get the opportunities denied to them so that they can attain an empowered future. This course is very useful and in my opinion, if this is taken to the school children directly by IT for Change, the intervention will become even more effective”.
- Telma Joseline Periera. Assistant Teacher,
Government Junior College (High School), Sakharayapatna, Birur block, Chikmagalur
“Age-related changes of adolescent girls and the information they need to have to understand these changes are available to them. We can say Kishori Club is a good platform to gain such awareness. Before starting the Kishori Club in school, they (ITfC) conducted a workshop to make us understand the significance and need for a space like Kishori Club. This workshop gave us clarity about many doubts we had. We understood how to implement the clubs and their urgency through this workshop. I am very happy because I have an opportunity to respond to the challenges shared by the adolescent girls. Since this platform encourages personal sharing, they are able to discuss their doubts, however small or big. They are not afraid or shy to express. They have been sharing their issues openly. I am happy to be a part of this.”
- Deepika C. K., Kishori Club Facilitator,
Morarji Desai Residential School, Doddahundi, Mysuru
“During the Kishori Clubs, we were taught many useful things through videos. We learnt about adolescence’s psychological and physical changes, what we should and should not do in these clubs. Also, in adolescence, our minds tend to wander everywhere. We learnt how to deal with that when we make decisions. So we know how to deal with our adolescence. We need Kishori club because of our age and age related distractions.”
- Nandini, 10th Standard Student,
Gangamma Hombegowda Girls High School, Bengaluru