“Girls are gaining small freedoms in India, but there’s still a way to go”

Girl Guide Harini, 18, lives in South India. She’s faced discrimination throughout her life. As an advocate for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scout’s Stop The Violence campaign, she’s working with young people to challenge discrimination and speak out against violence…

Harini at India’s National Jamboree (Photo credit: Daniel Quinn-Graham/WAGGGS)

“Young people need to stand up and voice their views. It’s the only way we can change and challenge our communities. As a Girl Guide leader in India, I am challenging discrimination and standing up for girls’ rights in every way I can.

“I found my voice after I attended a training event on Voices Against Violence. It’s a non-formal education curriculum created by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts and UN Women that aims to prevent violence against women and girls.

Speaking out

“During the training, I learnt how young people can stand up for their rights and speak out against violence.

I vividly remember discussing who should carry out certain roles in the family and I said women should be given the opportunity to be head of the family too.

“As soon as I stated my opinion, I was interrupted and told it was wrong. I was told only men should be head of the household. I explained that I don’t belong to a man and women should be able to lead their household and manage the finances. Although it was nerve-wracking, I was proud of standing up for my beliefs and emphasising the importance of women’s rights.

The Bharat Scouts and Guides, which includes Harini, are making moves to the stop the violence across India (Photo Daniel Quinn-Graham/WAGGGS)

Small steps

“Women still face so many barriers in India and while steps are being made, there’s still a long way to go. For example, I wanted to study architecture at university but my parents stopped me. They said it’d be easier for a girl to find a job with a mathematics degree.

“While girls are gaining small freedoms there is still a lot of pressure for us to have certain careers and study certain subjects. Stop The Violence has given me the courage to speak out and stay strong. It has taught me about my rights and the importance of gender equality and I want to continue to spread the message, during my day to day life.

“I recently attended the National Jamboree in India, where I was running training sessions on Stop the Violence. Initially, my parents didn’t want me to go, but I insisted. With support from my fellow Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, I’ve gained the confidence to stand up for my rights and dreams — and I even managed to persuade my parents to let me attend!”

To find out more about the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts Stop the Violence campaign, visit www.stoptheviolencecampaign.com