Empowering Adolescent Girls to change the world – An interview with Rachna Mehta, Trustee, Heal A Child Foundation

International Day of the Girl Child is now held on 11 October each year and helps to promote girls’ rights, highlight gender inequality between girls and boys, and shine a light on the different forms of discrimination and abuse suffered by girls around the world. This year’s theme is ‘empowering adolescent girls: Ending the cycle of violence‘.

With the right set of skills and tools, and when given the opportunity to unleash their creativity and strong motivation, young women can become extremely powerful agents of change,” says Elisa Fernández, Chief of UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality.

To help spread the word about this noble cause, Team KidEngage had a conversation with Rachna Mehta who is the Executive Director, Gymboree Play & Music India and one of the Trustees of Heal a Child Foundation which is a Charitable trust & Non Profit Organization, founded with the objective to help sick children in need of medical treatment. They are one of the few organizations that help sick children and are well known in the city for their mission to heal  and save sick children who may not survive, not because of their illness but only because the family cannot afford to pay for medical expenses and treatment.

For must of us, it’s easy  to regard these violations of girls’ rights as distant; belonging to another culture.But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Discrimination against girls is rife in our society too. Just because something doesn’t affect us directly, it doesn’t mean we can’t speak up. All of us in our small ways can work towards creating a change and make this world a better place for all to live in. 

Read on for the entire conversation

Q1. Women can be whatever they want.How can the use of technology and innovative strategies help to achieve gender equality in male-dominated fields?
Rachna: Women should also expose themselves to using more technology as much as men do. Computers & laptops are much easily available than they used to be in the past few years. If there are Online Programs/ Apps specially designed for women that can help them learn how to use Internet at home, things will become much easier. The younger generation is more inclined towards self-learning these days. Programs that teach girls about computers and technology can be organised by IT companies or bigger schools in smaller schools that are in villages or remote areas which cannot afford to conduct such courses for the students.

Q2. What programs would you suggest should be aimed at increasing the access of female secondary school dropouts to employment-oriented skills that can help them meet market demand, and help them to get decent occupations to earn their own livelihood?
Rachna: Programs can be conducted by the Government and NGOs that should aim at making women /girls literate – teach them basic reading & writing skills. Vocational training courses can also be implemented which can help them to obtain better jobs later. 

Q3. Thousands of girls in our country don’t even attend school and instead are handed a curriculum of chores at home. They’re denied the chance to live in good health because of violent abuses. How can we as a society help to bring about a change?
Rachna: Educate the Girls campaign is gaining steam throughout the country. We can start from our own homes and offices to encourage and help our staff to make sure their children especially girls, are able to attend regular school / college. 

Abuse of any kind to anyone is never acceptable – once these girls are educated, they can get more independent and feel safe, they will have the courage to stand up to any form of abuse that they might face at home or outside. We should make sure reliable people and organisations are there to help these girls if they face any form of abuse. The main issue is that since they are not literate, they cannot become independent…..and because they are not independent, they don’t gain confidence. It is a vicious cycle that can only be broken by imparting education to these girls. If a woman is confident, they will not take any nuisance from anyone.

Q4. How can we help young girls speak up?
Rachna: Private or government organisations can be formed to spread awareness amongst these girls to be to give them counselling and to rehabilitate them if required. Once, they will feel safe, secure and confident they will find the courage to speak up. They usually don’t speak because of fear – fear of people, family & society!

Do share your thoughts ongoing we can help to make a change, in the comments below.

If you would like us to do more interviews like these, mail your suggestions at contact@kidengage.com

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