As we near the end of October, our Shadhika team and partners reflected on the multitude of ways we have transitioned and adapted all in-person programming and communication to virtual platforms since March 2020. Indeed, our collective global society is more and more accustomed to the reality of virtual conferences, training, lectures, classrooms, and even gatherings with family and friends.
Shadhika’s first virtual event When She Leads Under Lockdown, was a virtual panel hosting 5 scholars and Shadhika program participants to talk through the current challenges they were facing due to the lockdown and how they were showing resilience and leadership during this time. This event successfully elevated the perspective and voices of Shadhika’s young women to an engaged audience, allowing donors and supporters to hear from them directly. In addition to this event, in recent months Shadhika has convened virtual round table discussions with our partner organizations, hosted our first Live Kitchen Table Conversation on Facebook, and completed our International Day of the Girl 10×100 Campaign over WhatsApp, with Shadhika Scholars and Making HERstory interns reaching out to over 100 young women peers to share the Girls’ Bill of Rights with them.
Shadhika’s partners have also been nimble and rapidly changed their outreach and programming to virtual settings alongside Shadhika. They have had to radically shift their programming from in-person classes, rallies, campaigns, street plays, enrichment and life skills classes to online virtual platforms. For a society that has limited access to network and internet – with girls being the center of this technology divide – our partners have worked diligently to continue providing a platform for them to share and lift their voices. One of our partners, Milaan, has hosted two separate virtual events with their supporters and young women to continue providing this platform of amplifying girls’ voices.
Milaan wrote to Shadhika Program Officers, Kendra and Upasana, about their experience of hosting these virtual events.
What was one key virtual event that your NGO hosted on girls’ rights or any similar issue to advance girls’ rights during the time of lockdown?
In the month of October, to commemorate the International Day of the Girl Child, we designed two virtual events to amplify the voices of grassroots girl leaders. The first event was held on October 8th; The Girl Icon Leadership Summit (India) and on October 17th our 5th Annual celebration of Girl Leaders (Chicago/NewYork).
The objective of the Girl Icon Leadership Summit was to create a platform to bring together voices of girl leaders from the grassroots and women leaders for dialogue to understand the issue in the here and now. With this summit, we aimed to drive attention to the compelling need to weave the gender lens into the rebuilding process. The summit is orchestrated around adolescent girls who know their rights (Haq) and have the courage (Hausla) to fight for it. The 4-hour summit also marked the graduation of 200+ Girl Leaders from Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh.
5000 adolescent girls joined the Summit from some of the most rural and remote locations, 76 young women from Shadhika also joined the summit.
The 5th Annual Celebration of Girl Leaders is an annual event held in Chicago every year, but due to COVID-19 a physical event was not possible. We leveraged the power of technology to connect our supporters in the USA to meet and have face to face interaction with Girl Icons. Over 30 participants along with Milaan leadership team, Milaan Foundation US Board and Girl Icons from Karanataka and Uttar Pradesh joined the event.
Both events were focused to amplify the voices of adolescent girls and young women. Shadhika’s partners have had to use various platforms to provide increased participation and allow young women to join such campaigns and summits. The most important part of these events is allowing girls to speak and be heard.
What was the role of the young women program participants in these events?
In the Girl Icon Leadership Summit, adolescent girls and young women participated as panelists and shared their experiences, views, and thoughts to build resilient communities ensuring adolescent girls and young women are in the center of the rebuilding process. They also shared the stage with notable women leaders. Adolescent girls also engaged in creating radio plays, shadow puppet show, self-curated films, and poetry on issues related to adolescent girls such as secondary education, child marriage, gender-based violence etc.
In the 5th Annual celebration of Girl Leaders, a panel was designed with Girl Icons, moderated by a Girl Icon who is also an employee at Milaan. We also designed one to one interaction of participants with Girl Icons and used breakout sessions for the same.
Consistent throughout our conversations with the young women and partners, many find it difficult to join virtual events live, due to connectivity issues, lack of a quiet place to attend, lack of technology access and sharing mobile phones with family members.
What kind of challenges did you face with this event being virtual?
We faced technical challenges on Zoom such as we could only take the summit LIVE on any one of the social media platforms and not numerous channels at the same time. Girl Icons who participated in the summit as panelists, initially faced technical issues with zoom for example they were visible but their voice was not audible. We would definitely try to find more platform options other than Zoom and applications that can help us to take the events LIVE across multiple social media platforms at the same time.
As stated, many Shadhika program participants and scholars were able to attend Milaan’s Girl Icon Leadership Summit, learning from both the girl leaders of Milaan and notable leaders throughout India. Despite technical challenges, our partners have pressed on, working to not let such events disappear because in-person events are prohibited. Another partner of Shadhika, Sahiyar has started online computer sessions with girls to help build the technical skills to access and navigate a computer.
Despite COVID-19 challenging and complicating development efforts around the world, Shadhika and our partners know we cannot let girls be the consequence. We must look for ways to continue educating, empowering, supporting, and amplifying their voices so they can continue pursuing the independence and opportunities they deserve.
In November, Shadhika is going to pilot a fully virtual Leaders for Change Summit, primarily on the WhatsApp platform with a culminating graduation and awards ceremony live on Zoom. We are looking forward to trialing this virtual method and continuing to build on the skills that our partners have implemented with our scholars – leadership, empowerment, and resilience.
Follow our social media channels over the next two weeks for Leaders for Change Summit updates and featured content!
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