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Clubs help young girls navigate their way

Adolescence is marked by many rapid changes, yet it is never discussed. Hence, teenagers succumb to misinformation and resort to risky ways of exploring their curiosity. Adolescent girls (Kishoris) are especially vulnerable in our patriarchial society.
Last Updated : 01 July 2024, 23:29 IST

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“I had always felt conscious about my pimples and dark skin. I never thought I looked good,” admitted Pooja,* a Class 9 student in a government high school in Mysuru.

Pooja is part of her school’s ‘Kishori Club’—a safe space established exclusively for adolescent girls. During a Kishori Club session on ‘Body Image and Adolescence’, Pooja and her classmates watched a video on ‘body image’, which discussed its meaning, factors influencing it, the impact of a negative body image on adolescents, and challenging stereotypical notions of beauty.

Following this, Pooja and her classmates were asked to discuss their favourite features. Through this activity, Pooja felt a shift in how she looked at herself. “I will never tell myself I don’t look good ever again,” she promised herself and her friends.

Adolescence is marked by many rapid changes, yet it is never discussed. Hence, adolescents succumb to misinformation and resort to risky ways of exploring their curiosity. Adolescent girls (Kishoris) are especially vulnerable in our patriarchial society.

According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2019-21, across rural and urban Karnataka, the dropout from secondary school to higher secondary was greater in women (20.7%) than in men (17.4%). Another report notes child marriage and sexual offences against minors as major reasons for 418 cases of teenage pregnancies in Karnataka between 2021 and 2022. While the statistics highlight serious issues faced by adolescent girls, addressing the circumstances that neglect and devalue them is crucial.

To address these vulnerabilities and challenges, Kishori Clubs aim to equip Kishoris with a deeper understanding of their bodies and the world around them and to empower them with articulation and negotiation skills to acquire greater agency.

Kishori Clubs are part of Hosa Hejje Hosa Dishe (H2HD) – A New Step in A New Direction, an adolescent girl empowerment programme of IT for Change, an NGO that works for the meaningful appropriation of digital technologies for social justice and equity. Since 2019, H2HD has collaborated with the Karnataka government to work with Kishoris and school teachers to enhance their understanding of and sensitivity towards adolescence. The teachers strongly expressed the need for a continuing space of engagement with adolescent girls to address their challenges, so the idea of the Kishori Club was born in 2023.

In the past year, 146 Kishori Clubs were established in government schools—residential (under Karnataka Residential Educational Institutions Society, Social Welfare Department) and non-residential (under Samagra Shikshana Karnataka, Education Department)—across Mysuru and Kalaburagi districts.

The empowerment curriculum of the Kishori Club covers the physical and psychological changes during adolescence, patriarchy, health and nutrition, body image and identity, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO), life skills; and cyber safety. The curriculum uses audio-visual resources and help sheets with activities freely hosted on the digital platform Karnataka Open Educational Resources (KOER). 

To facilitate classroom conversations around these aspects, a female teacher from each school is trained in these modules. Smeeta, one such facilitator in Kalaburagi, was initially reluctant to discuss socially taboo topics with her students.

However, after a few sessions, she realised how much the girls needed such information. “This is an opportunity to respond to the challenges shared by the adolescent girls. Since this platform encourages personal sharing, they are not shy about openly discussing doubts,” said Deepika, a facilitator at Mysuru.

These dialogues extend to a wider audience via the Instagram handle Kishori Adda (@kishoriadda) and the podcast Nan Voice Nan Choice (on SoundCloud and Spotify), which features girls from Kishori Clubs sharing their experiences and learnings.

Divya*, a Kalaburagi student, shared that patriarchy was her favourite Kishori Club module. “It is necessary for more girls to know about patriarchy. Then they will know they are equal to boys and won’t be scared of them,” she said. Sandhya* from Mysuru chose anaemia module, “Just like the girl in the story [on anaemia], I too felt tired all the time. I never felt like eating. I learnt a lot about healthy food and began to eat meat, eggs and vegetables,” she said.

The Kishori Club holistically addresses the personal and social aspects of adolescence. It promotes solidarity among adolescent girls and allows for care and sensitivity in engaging with the turbulence of adolescence.


(*Names changed to protect privacy)

(The author works at IT for Change)

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Published 01 July 2024, 23:29 IST

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