"The girl champions programme...is a huge platform for girls to share their problems."
Vinita Birla, Master Trainer
Everyone can be a saphara girl champion
What is the Saphara girl champions programme?
There are 15 million girls worldwide who are never expected to enrol in school. Even if they do, the ratio of girls to boys decreases rapidly at every step along the educational ladder. Once poverty is added into the equation, the number of girls completing even basic education is extremely low.
Lack of education has been linked to a rise in child marriage, younger pregnancies, high levels of domestic abuse, high risks to women’s health and vulnerable employment. A higher level of education however, can lead to positive community development, improved collective healthcare and women standing up for their rights.
Saphara has had a long history of supporting girl's education and healthcare initiatives in our partner schools. However, in 2012, we decided to take it a step further. Working in tandem with our NGO partners, Saphara initiated the development of an adolescent resilience and health programme which has since become known as the Saphara Girl Champions Programme.
The main objective of the programme is to enhance the lives of girls from the marginalised Dalit and tribal Indian (Adivasi) communities. Our participants are girls beginning high school, aged between 12-16. This is a time when many girls are forced to leave education, often for child marriage, and when puberty typically lowers self-esteem. The programme delivered by facilitators and master trainers from the community, many of whom are young women that have just finished high school themselves.
The main goals of the Saphara Girl Champions Programme are to:
provide emotional resilience education;
provide healthcare education;
create supportive, inclusive communities.
Girls who have been encouraged to stay in education thanks to the programme are studying to become teachers, doctors and nurses. Many of them are also staying in the community and becoming mothers themselves. By passing on their aspirations and new skills to new generations of girls and the rest of their community, they become the agents of change themselves.
5000 girls have participated in our resilience programme since its inception in 2012.
Young women who have just finished high school have been trained as facilitators and master trainers on the programme, as part of their own transformational process.
Girls undertaking the programme have shown improved academic performance, knowledge of their menstrual health and are confident in creating new relationships with teachers and classmates.
Facilitators and participants engage with families and encourage parents to not propose marriage until after education is complete.
Chandani is a young woman from a Muslim community in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. She attended a government school until she was 17 but was not allowed to continue her studies, instead staying at home embroidering to raise money for the family. In 2018, a local NGO was looking for facilitators for the Saphara Girl Champions Programme and Chandani was recommended by her former school principal. Despite concerns from her traditional father, she began training in her old school, discovering her character strengths, assertiveness, and feeling of self-worth. In the job, she really connected with the girls who began to share their problems with her. Her progress meant that she was selected to become a master trainer. After much discussion with her parents she was able to take the post and travelled to Delhi in October 2018 where she spoke in front 20 Irish students about the important work she is doing. Chandani's story is just one of many, and she has become an incredible role model for the young women in her community.
Salho is student at Eklavya model school near Chaibasa in the Jharkand region. She is part of an indigenous South Asian ethic group called the Adivasi, a minority group in India. Eklavya, run by ASRA, brings together Adivasi girls from poor villages across the region to give them an education. It is one of many locations where Saphara's Girl Champions programme is being taught. Through the programme, Salho has discovered that one of her character strengths is leadership. At the age of 14, she became not only leader of her school house, but the whole school. Now she is a role model for other girls coming to the school, as well as her family and community back in her village, Kurma.
Kumlesh is a very special woman who has been part of Saphara since its early days in 2010. Apart from being the recipient of a number of Saphara grants, taking her through Kaplani high school all the way to university, she is a symbol of social change in her community. When her family was illegally evicted by her uncle, Kumlesh's mother, a Dalit woman not afforded the chance of an education, did not have the confidence to speak up. Spurred on by the knowledge of her own rights, Kumlesh went in her mother's place and successfully argued her case. Sapahra believe that real social change comes from the community and Kumlesh is the embodiment of that belief.