The issue of girl child rights and protection in India is a very serious concern. Being home to more than one third of the 10 million child brides in the world, India has one of the highest numbers of girls forced into marriage before the legal age of 18, trafficked for sexual exploitation and other forms of it.
Girls Advocacy Alliance, a Terre des Hommes Netherlands project in India works towards combating violence against women and children in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Girls face severe problems in these states. They drop out as a result of poor sanitation facilities, poverty and child marriages. In Telangana State, 25.7 percent of women aged 20-24 were married before the age of 18 years according to National Family Health Survey (NFHS) .The rate of trafficking is also growing every year with close to 500 child victims in the state of Telangana alone.
To advocate on the above concerned issues, 50 GAA Youth Advocates/Change Agents from Warangal urban and rural districts of Telangana state, India, joined hands and advocated with the government, civil society organisations, and religious leaders for the prevention of child marriage and child trafficking. They also influence different actors to promote secondary education for adolescent girls and job oriented vocational courses to young women to combat gender-based violence and economic exclusion of girls.
However it is very important to sustain their advocacy action by mobilising external support such as their parents. It is needed to strengthen the advocacy bond, support, and cooperation of parents of youth advocates to ensure that the advocacy efforts are sustainable and effective. In this regard, the GAA partner in Telangana State, Franciscan Missionaries of Mary Social Service Society (FMM SSS), organised interfaces between the youth advocates and their parents to garner support from the parents so that they would be encouraged and enable their children to continue the advocacy action.
With the support of TdH-NL and FMMSSS, the youth advocates have been enhancing their skills and capacities to advocate against social issues through comics, cartoons, short films, drawings, songs, speech, and dances. Few of the vibrant youth advocates are also taking active part in advocating with the state bodies for child protection and women empowerment. As part of their advocacy journey, an opportunity for parents to hear their emotions and extend the greatest support and cooperation to their advocacy was significant.
Advocacy Alliance started building the parental support in youth advocacy action. The process started from 15th Sep, 2020. The response from parents made the youth advocates of Girls Advocacy Alliance more enthusiastic to sustain the youth advocacy action.
“I lost one of my two daughters when she was a child. Since then I have taken utmost care in bringing up my only daughter, in keeping her safe and providing her with the best of opportunities. Today, I am proud of my daughter standing as a responsible youth advocate and working towards bringing a change in the society”, said Smt. Rani, parent of Madhumathi, one of the youth advocates of Warangal.
All the youth advocates are now very confident in continuing their advocacy with the most valuable support and encouragement from their parents. The parents assured that they will support their children not only with moral support but also with the other resources needed.
All the 70 youth advocates are now able to expand their advocacy towards prevention of child marriages, child trafficking and promotion of secondary education for girls and Job Oriented Vocational Trainings for young women with the great support and cooperation from their parents.
The tremendous effort of youth advocates in their advocacy is the biggest milestone for the Girls Advocacy Alliance. Since there are very little opportunities for these youth advocates to sustain their advocacy action, the direct support, and encouragement of their parents is a great foundation for the sustainability of their advocacy action. The practice has already been replicated in other GAA operational districts.
Transforming the Youth Advocates from heroes to superheroes is made possible with the consent and encouragement of all the parents of youth advocates.