“All schools deserve good playgrounds," said 16-year-old Asha, the leader of her village’s girls group. The Halagenshwar Kishori Group was formed in January 2020 under our Children GOOD project. The members of this group are children aged 12 to 18 and belong to marginalised Devadasi communities in North Karnataka.
“We as a community have been subjected to a lot of challenges”, says Asha. “In schools, we are always asked why we don’t have fathers or who our fathers are. That makes us very sad”
In Asha’s community, young girls and women are dedicated to a life of sex work, which often places their children in vulnerability. They are ridiculed, they leave school, lack opportunities for additional livelihood and the cycle continues.
“The sessions in the group gave us a little bit of courage and faith”, said Sujata (age 14), Asha’s friend.
All the girls went to the same school and although there was a large playground, it was filled with village litter. As a result, the ground was unusable.
“We decided to do something about it. Luckily for us, the local panchayat is right next to our school. So in March 2020 we spoke to them about the issue and urged them to clean up the ground”, said Asha.
But the Panchayat hadn’t acted on it. The girls kept visiting the office, action was promised, but none was taken.
“It was very frustrating”, said Asha. “But the club told us not to give up hope”
Sometime in January 2021, officials from the District Legal Service Authority visited the village. The girls decided to utilise this opportunity to voice their concern about the playground.
“We spoke to the chairman and he said he would look into it”, said Asha “And to our pleasant surprise, the cleaning of the ground began in June in the same year.”
The panchayat took six months to complete the cleaning and by December 2021 the playground was fully cleaned.
“We have a clean school ground now and we are proud that we had a role to play”, said Asha. “The other children in the school are also happy with us and their attitude towards us has improved in general. We have set up a firm foundation for the outlook towards Devadasis in our village. What more could we ask for?”