Gender discrimination against girls and women in all countries around the world exists in all life stages to different degrees. When inequality is ingrained in society, it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle that is difficult to break.
Norms, values and beliefs of inequality have led to harmful practices including female foeticide, less education, forced or early marriage, lower wages and underrepresentation in positions of leadership to name a few.
All throughout the world girls experience prejudice, but in India the case is extreme – the general perception if that the girl child suffers from ‘womb to tomb’. Our partner networks are acutely aware of the impact not just on girls, but on their families and across society.
Viva networks in 7 cities across India are working to ‘unlock the potential of girls’ by developing a solution strategy to the acute problem of gender discrimination and inequality. As network members are churches and organisations built and populated by their communities, they are in a strong position to implement change not just in material support, but also to mindsets.
Together we are striving to change attitudes on the value and rights of girls so that girls are as equally valued as boys by implementing programmes to increase public awareness across the cities through seminars, campaigns and media, as well as mentoring programmes that focus on life skills education for individual girls. These mentoring programmes are imperative because they equip the girls with the resources needed to overcome difficult life situations, which in turn will help make better life decisions.
For this impact on children to be realised across the city, the networks need to influence parents, child-care practitioners, churches, residential homes, schools, community-based networks, government, services, media and the children themselves. A strong, networked approach is the only way to coordinate a response that will reach into all these areas.
Following situational mapping and pilot programmes, three key programme objectives and the activities needed to achieve them have been identified to begin to work towards a city solution for girls to be protected, supported and valued in all sectors of society.
The three programme objectives are:
- Perception change on the value of girls in society through activities including: Child Ambassadors training, girl self esteem programme, training churches in Understanding God’s Heart for Children, Sunday School training, parenting classes, teacher training, birth registration, advocacy, Good Treatment Campaign.
- Helping girls to know and access their rights through activities including: Child protection training for children through ‘Good Touch Bad Touch’ and adults and institutions to ensure best care for children, advocacy, community meetings and conversations with parents, presenting positive images in the media.
- Providing support for girls through activities including: a hub linking girls to appropriate support, peer to peer mentoring, economic empowerment, girl mentoring programme, educational support.
Mentoring complimented by programmes with schools, families and communities is already having an impact in Patna, one of the 7 cities where Viva networks are in action in India that is working to become a ‘safe city for girls’.