By Daan Schuttenbelt
Fifteen-year-old, Daan Schuttenbelt, is Dutch national and currently lives with her parents in New Delhi.
MUMBAI, 25 April 2012 - Last Saturday, I was in Mumbai as part of the ‘Dare to Care’ campaign organised by UNICEF and Delhi Daredevils. Delhi Daredevils is the Delhi franchise for the Indian Premier League in cricket.
The campaign aims to sensitise public on the important role girls can play in society and why education and protection can ensure that they can grow up and develop to their full potential.
I had the chance to meet and talk to girls my age. These girls have lived a life much harder than the one I am used to. It was interesting and to hear the stories and experiences of these girls and how UNICEF supported programmes like Deepshikha were helping them to develop and also encouraging them to help other girls of their age.
I met Pooja Kurne, 18, and Shruti Dicholkar, 20. Pooja had dropped out of school in ninth standard and Shruti had to deal with major self-esteem issues. This was well before they became familiar with the Deepshikha programme in Mumbai. The Deepshikha programme initiated by UNICEF works to bring education and empowerment to adolescent girls like Pooja and Shruti.
Pooja’s life in the past only centred around her home and school. She was sick most of the time and wasn’t able to complete her education from ninth standard onwards as her family was unable to pay for her medication and studies.
One day, she met a volunteer who persuaded her to come to a Deepshikha training session. After learning life skills, information about health and more of such information, she has become a lot more confident in herself and the information she spreads to other people. She has now become a good public speaker and is able to communicate this information well.
I think that the fact that she knows about new things, and knows it comes from a reliable source, makes her more confident in her own opinions as well. She has also made new friends, who have same story as hers, and convinced them to go through the same program. I can see that this has improved her life a lot and she feels same about her life as well.
Shruti is another girl I talked to. Before attending the program, she interacted mainly with her family members and wasn’t aware about various health issues. Just like Pooja, the main improvement in her life is her increased level of confidence which has had a positive effect on her personality.
She is now contacted by other NGO’s to give workshops and teach other girls the same things that she learnt. She thinks it is important to spread the messages and information so that everyone is educated and knows what to do in certain situations. She organises various activities to do this, and is determined to keep going and teaching other girls the same thing. She knows she can make a change now, and doesn’t fail to do this.
Listening to what the girls had to say, I definitely feel the programs have greatly benefitted the girls in various ways. I am very touched by the fact that these girls are now thinking about the rest of their community and passing on what they have learnt to other girls to make sure they have a brighter future ahead of them as well.
Not only their lives can be improved, but the lives of others can too, and I find it amazing how they manage to think about the others immediately. In my opinion, this is a very effective way of informing people about health issues and related topics and making sure people are better educated and ready to face life and its many difficulties.
On Saturday, Daan, Pooja, Shruti and 6 other friends met with the players of the Delhi Daredevils cricket team. The players Ajit Agarkar, Kevin Pietersen and Mahela Jayawardene heard the stories from the girls and promised that they will help spread the importance of education for girls and the need for them to be supported and protected to be able to reach their full potential.
UNICEF and Delhi Daredevils have come together in a campaign labelled ‘Dare to Care; educated and protected girls will give India a winning run’. The players proudly wear the blue ribbon in every match which symbolises their support to the empowerment of girls in India. Join them and contribute at www.uncief.in/daretocare