Voice4girls. What a catchy logo and name! That was my first impression. A couple of months ago, there was a poster on our notice board about Voice4Girls offering internship. I’ve seen many organizations working for social causes, but I never got the opportunity to be a part of one. I found myself in self-doubt. Can I take it up? Will I actually help the girls? Will I be able to adjust to those rural areas? Will I be able to teach them? Even though, I had to get out of my comfort zone I was very keen on taking this up. Yes. I decided to go for it, no matter what, as I believed change is something that begins within us. It was not only my first experience at VOICE camp but also my first one being a part of an organization. I was ready to learn, and share all I could.
Founded in 2011, VOICE 4 GIRLS is a start-up social enterprise, whose mission is to enable marginalized adolescent girls in India to take charge of their futures by imparting critical knowledge, spoken English, and life skills through activity-based camps.
The programme, “Her Voice” is implemented in three phases: Her Voice Parichay, Disha, and Sakhi Peer Leadership programme. Parichay and Disha seek to familiarize campers with critical topics related to health, safety, self-awareness and future planning, while Sakhi leadership camp is the last level of flagship, where girls will be trained as leaders and learn about community leadership, communication, team building, taking good risks, resilience and ethical leadership.
After the camp, the designated Sakhis will return to their schools and take up the responsibility of preparing the students of sixth and seventh grade for Parichay camp and mentoring the younger students and peers.
Voice conducted Sakhi Leadership camp across 5 locations in Telangana and I was selected for the camp at Mittapally, Siddipet. Every location had counselors (trained college students), a field coordinator and campers(students) who came together to help girls find and raise their voice. The 10-day camp was a learning experience not only for the students but for us as well. We learnt to adapt, adjust and come out of our comfort zones.
We started our day with the Sakhi Anthem and Affirmation which the girls sang with heartfelt passion. This gave us a boost throughout the day. The students were very enthusiastic and loved Voice classrooms as the teaching is activity based which made learning fun. They involved themselves and participated in all the activities.
30 Social welfare schools sent 8-10 of their students from each location to the camp. Every school would have a Sakhi manager and the other students would be Sakhi leaders. We conducted elections for the Sakhi Manager. Sakhi Manager and Sakhi Leaders would ensure that they would go back to their communities and help their peers and conduct mentoring sessions twice a month. This way, Voice tries to reach out to every girl who is in need.
Over the 10 days, Sakhis(students) learnt about leadership qualities, how to identify and solve problems, teamwork, communication skills, ethical and community leadership, mentoring and how to take action, as they will be Sakhi leaders in the future, and will have to help their communities and peers.
Our days never ended without the campers asking “Akka, thinnava?”(sister, did you eat?) and greeting us whenever they see us. Looking at their zeal to become leaders, we would be motivated to give our 100%. Their final performance came on the last day, showcasing their dances, songs, street-plays and skits.
Days passed by before we even realized, it was the last day and all the performances were eye-catching and breathtaking. That evening, all of us were grooving to the DJ, enjoying every remaining moment with the kids.
We were moved by their love and affection. Few girls made cards for us on which they drew and decorated them beautifully. They surrounded us for goodbyes when we were all set to leave. We were happy to return home but sad to leave them behind.
We returned with improved leadership, confidence, interpersonal knowledge about social realities and managerial skills while being able to travel and live in a rural camp. I’m glad I took this opportunity.