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Meet a vulnerable teen who’s winning respect in her community

POSTED December 16, 2021

Meet a vulnerable teen who’s winning respect in her community

Sadhana’s vulnerable position in Indian society is not holding her back from making positive lasting change in multiple ways

By Siju Mathew, monitoring, evaluation, learning and knowledge sharing officer, India

Girl sits on stoop by plant, smiling

Girls voices are not heard anywhere — be it at home, school or the community. That’s what Sadhana, a 15-year-old from our programs, told us, adding: “It makes me upset.” 

As a Dalit (a low caste or class) girl, Sadhana faces many challenges in her village in India, but she hasn’t let that stop her from proposing and making change.

The teen’s confidence and courage to speak up was driven by her membership in a Child-Friendly Accountability club, promoted through Children Believe. The safe space offers children and youth a chance to learn their rights, create child-friendly environments and understand who can protect them locally and nationally.

In fact, under the teen’s leadership, the group is working with the local government (Panchayat), volunteers and others to protect the rights of children and youth while helping develop their community.

And, Sadhana is already helping her friends, family and peers thrive in more ways than one…

  • She’s stopped two child marriages in her village by calling the toll-free child helpline. Now both girls she helped are pursuing their education.
  • Under Sadhana’s leadership, a memo was submitted, along with other community organizations during a Grama Sabha meeting (A general assembly of eligible voters in a village, which children have never been invited to take part.). The proposal was to build a bridge over a river to reduce the time nearly 100 families face traveling by boat five kilometres to the nearest bus stop. Her petition was accepted, and the bridge’s construction has already begun.
  • The teen also reached out to the local government to request timely disposal of garbage on village street corners. Her concerns were immediately addressed.
  • When the local government school water tank wasn’t cleaned for eight months, Sadhana raised the issue, and now all children at the school have clean drinking water.
  • She helped enrol two girls from a tribal community in school — something the eager students never thought would be possible for the long-term.
  • The young advocate organized a campaign to show her village the impact of using energy-draining light bulbs in her village. Since then, 80 percent of the homes in her village were replaced with LED bulbs.
  • Sadhana shared with her peers the risk of anemia and the importance of taking iron-folic acid tablets being distributed by the village health nurse who couldn’t convince many children of their importance.

And, this is just the beginning. Sadhana dreams of becoming a district collector, the highest judicial authority in the region. The top student wants to end child marriages in her local communities and ensure children can stay in school and get the chance to grow and dream big.

Sadhana is thankful for the training through her Child-Friendly Accountability club, summer camps and her village — all accessed through our program. “I gained knowledge and confidence in taking up child-rights issues and community issues to the appropriate authorities,” she affirms.

This empowered young woman is already winning support and confidence in her community, and our local implementing partner, IRCDS, consistently encourages her to continue her work.

“I nurtured Sadhana to encourage her to raise her voice against injustice and support other children,” says the young advocate’s mother proudly. “I trained my daughter to face challenges when addressing common issues in the community.”

Rajeswari, the village development committee leader, is thankful for the example Sadhana is setting: “Like Sadhana, (many young people should) be empowered to raise their voices for community development and the education of children,” she says.

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ABOUT CHILDREN BELIEVE (formerly Christian Children's Fund of Canada):

Children Believe works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. For 60 years, we’ve brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists. Together, we’re driven by a common belief: creating access to education — inside and outside of classrooms — is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.

About ChildFund Alliance:

A member of ChildFund Alliance, Children Believe is part of a global network of 12 child-focused development organizations working to create opportunities for children and youth, their families and communities. ChildFund helps nearly 23-million children and their families in more than 70 countries overcome poverty and underlying conditions that prevent children from achieving their full potential. We work to end violence against children; provide expertise in emergencies and disasters to ease the harmful impact on children and their communities; and engage children and youth to create lasting change and elevate their voices in decisions that affect their lives.

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