IDS funded a girls empowerment program to ensure girls' continuation of secondary education, improve adolescent girls’ health, delay marriage beyond the legal age of 18, and build awareness around gender-based discrimination and violence.
IDS supported the Milaan Foundation's Girl Icon Program for the third consecutive year.
As the pandemic poses increased challenges for people living in poverty, young girls from low-income and vulnerable communities require additional support to ensure they remain educated, healthy, and safe.
The objectives of the Girl Icon Program are to: 1) ensure continuation of secondary education; 2) improve adolescent girls’ health; 3) delay marriage beyond the legal age of 18; and 4) build awareness around gender-based discrimination and violence.
With funds from IDS, Milaan provided:
- Girls Training: 110 adolescent girls between the ages of 12 to 18 years benefited from 60 hours of life skills education addressing 18 thematic areas. In the wake of school closures, peer meetings were a critical space for girls to continue their learning journey, convene to share their experiences, and devise local solutions to overcome social barriers.
- Teacher Trainings: On a quarterly basis, teachers were trained on thematic areas, providing a space to strengthen their knowledge and facilitation skills in order to effectively deliver the Girls Icon curriculum. Training also incorporated creative methods and tools to enhance their learning outcomes. A critical focus of the training was creating an environment in which girls felt comfortable sharing their experiences and challenges due to the pandemic.
- Life Skills Education: Each trainer is responsible for conducting a life skills curriculum for 20 or more adolescent girls. The curriculum focuses on 18 focus areas such as financial literacy, building leadership, goals, and aspirations, adolescent health, rights and laws, and career choices, among others. Every fortnight girls are brought together to learn and share their experiences. On average, peer groups have attendance rates of 80%. As the pandemic has adversely affected girls’ access to education with families in economic distress immediately making cutbacks to their daughter’s education, Milaan focused on the importance of education and building negotiation skills to ensure they return to school when schools reopen.
- Learning Materials: Each girl receives workbooks to help them learn. The workbooks have been created to engage them in activities and deepen their knowledge of thematic areas. With school closures, the workbooks were a critical resource for girls to continue their learning journey, highlighting success stories of other adolescent girls to help them to remain motivated and inspired to lead themselves towards an educated and healthy future.
In order to strengthen community engagement, the program also develops local support systems for girls, actively engaging school teachers, health workers, and gram pradhan. This is crucial to ensure that girls have the resources and support system needed to succeed within their homes and communities. With the help of the life-skills training program, girls are more confident, influencing their decision-making abilities as it pertains to their health, education, and futures. Peer meetings have proven to be an effective safe space for girls to come together and learn about their health, government schemes and to encourage them to take action towards their education.
At Milaan, they are empowering girls to take center stage in their own transformation by giving them requisite knowledge, skills, and a social environment in which they can learn from others and develop their own potential, working towards breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty for themselves and their families.
Success Story of Peer Group Member - Jyoti
Jyoti is a peer member in the Himachal Ganj village in Raebareli. Jyoti faced many hardships growing up. She is an only child who lost her mother when she was only six years old. Jyoti lives in a home with her father, grandmother, aunt, and uncle. Her father works as a mechanic and earns a meager income. Jyoti has been heavily burdened by household chores, and her aunt is against the idea of educating her. Jyoti made it to eighth grade, but then was forced to drop out due to her family’s inability to pay her school fees. Against the idea of further educating her, Jyoti’s aunt refused to allow her return to school to take on a more traditional role in the home. When Milaan was recruiting new members for the Girls Icon Program, Jyoti showed keen interest in joining a peer group, but her grandmother and aunt did not support her desire. Without her aunt and grandmother’s knowledge, Jyoti still moved forward in the process, working with the Sahayogi to enroll herself in the program. Seeing Jyoti's determination, the Sahayogi conducted a home visit to meet her grandmother and aunt and was able to convince them to give Jyoti a fair chance. When Jyoti attended the session on goals and aspirations, she decided that the best path forward for her was to return to school. Together with her Sahayogi, she met with the school principal and is now enrolled in school once again. Her family, seeing her determination and resilience, is now supportive of her education. Jyoti feels very fortunate to have joined the peer group and learn important life skills to strengthen her decision-making ability to advocate for her own education.