Structural factors cut short the education of many adolescent girls belonging to scheduled caste and scheduled tribe families in northern Karnataka, India. The Karnataka Health Promotion Trust (KHPT) is implementing a multi-level intervention, Samata, to address these barriers in the districts of Bijapur and Bagalkot, in order to reduce HIV risk and improve girls’ lives and futures.
Evidence that an intervention works is crucial but practitioners in the field want to know: How does it work? These briefs give some answers.
The Samata team use Parivartan, a programme to shift gender norms among adolescent boys through sports training by local male mentors. Young adolescent boys are gathered into groups around a popular local team sport. The training module is adapted from the Parivartan programme for boys developed by the International Center for Research on Women.
Before, we teased girls. Now, we encourage them to be in school and to play volleyball. We have started to believe that girls can also play any game, for as long as and as well as boys. We have started supporting them.
At the heart of the Samata intervention is the development of a cadre of adolescent girl leaders who will sustain changes in favour of girls’ education and gender equality in their villages. The programme mentors girls to become confident and vocal young feminists, active in their communities and schools. Samata aims to equip them with the knowledge and skills to effectively negotiate a space that is hostile to women.
Girls are equal to boys and have a right to study and work. We should exercise those rights. My parents are very supportive. If I don’t study well and get a job, I will have to do hard agricultural labour in the field. I will be dependent on the landowner to earn money. But if I am a professional, I can lead an independent life because I will get a salary and be paid on time.
Samata works with 64 schools across 49 villages in two districts of Bagalkot and Bijapur in northern Karnataka. Teachers and members of the School Development Management Committee (SDMC) are given gender training, as they are key stakeholders in transforming schools into gender-responsive teaching and learning environments.
First we need to change ourselves as teachers and then our families. If we are supported to learn about initiating change in ourselves, then it is easier for us to do it our schools.
Families, communities and village governments are often the key decision-makers regarding girls’ lives. They can also be the most difficult to persuade in terms of delaying girls’ marriages. Their support can ensure that changes initiated by Samata are sustained well after the end of the programme.
I got married at the age of 15 and my wife was just 7 or 8 years old. But I agreed to Bharti’s wedding under pressure from the family. I got the courage to cancel it seeing the determination of my daughter, and [outreach worker] Jayashri-madam’s encouragement to let her study and warning me against child marriage. Now my daughters go regularly to school.
Read more about the Samata programme and find related resources here.