Girl Up community to educate, engage, empower
Members of Delhi-NCR’s Girl Up clubs give us an insight into their social initiatives and how they are raising awareness about community issues
After graduating from Delhi Public School, Ghaziabad resident Anushka Singh arrived at Kamala Nehru College, Siri Fort, with several apprehensions. The misconceptions of an all-women’s college had her feeling uneasy. Call it luck or not, within a few months of being in college, Singh ended up joining Girl Up (Girl Up Ikhtiyaar)—a community that helps girls network with each, and prepare them to become leaders—and is currently its president. Calling the community her second home, Singh feels that her stint with Girl Up has helped her learn about gender equality, built her perspective on feminism, helped her give back to the community, and most importantly, cleared the misapprehension about women she once had.
Established by the United Nations, Girl Up is a global leadership development initiative that attempts to nurture leadership among young girls as a part of a larger movement for gender equality. Clubs can be set up in schools, colleges, or as per a certain geographical community to advance change through both online and offline measures. “There are several activities that take place under the umbrella of Girl Up. We are trying to work towards a more gender equal space and, at the same time, educate [people] and give back to society,” shares Nitya Bahri, president, Girl Up Meera (Delhi University).
In attempt to bring change
Girl Up groups usually work on three fronts—education, fundraising, and community empowerment activities such as sanitary napkin and condom distribution drives, etc. As part of their online initiatives, Girl Up communities attempt to disseminate information about a wide range of topics that affect their respective target audience. If you scroll through their Instagram pages of community-oriented groups Girl Up Meera and Girl Up Ashayein, you will find micro-blogs on abortion rights, period poverty, women representation in cinema, sustainable menstruation, and more. “Social media is a great tool, it helps reach a range of people. Online platforms really help bring certain users to light which otherwise are absent from the discourse ,” adds Bahri. Live sessions with experts usually complement their social media posts in an attempt to raise awareness and educate the public.
Generating funds for communities or organisations working with underrepresented sections of society, too, forms an integral part of Girl Up’s operations. "We organise a flagship music concert called ‘Echo’. The money we raise is sent to NGOs such as Pehchaan The Street School that work with underprivileged children, or we use it to conduct sanitary napkin distribution drives,” shares Kalash Kaushal, president, Girl Up Aashayein (Pitampura). Mahima Aggarwal from Girl Up Femina (a community-oriented group) adds, “During COVID, we partnered with an organisation and raised funds through a variety of activities—we screened the TV show, Friends and hosted an open mic. We raised over Rs7,000, which was sent to the organisation.” The clubs also engage with communities first hand. For instance, Girl Up Ikhtiyaar has worked with Afghan refugees in India in helping them promote the items made by the women. They have also been regulars in teaching children from economically stressed backgrounds on topics such as menstruation, good touch and bad touch, etc. Similarly, GirlUp Aashayein has been regular with organising Open mics on a variety of issues to generate awareness.
A majority of the work done by Girl Up clubs is usually limited to social media—live sessions, and information dissemination through posts—which often subjects them to criticism of participating in mere tokenism in the name of change. Refuting the same, Singh comments, “While I agree not everyone puts in the same effort as others, to raise awareness on social media is important. While we think such posts do not matter, they help educate people. Discourse can’t exist without dialogue. And what better way to initiate conversations than on social media.” On the other hand, Kalash Kaushal, president, Girl Up Aashayein, welcomes the criticism and states that online work must always be substantiated with on-ground activities to affect change.