It was a bright Friday afternoon and several youths clad in orange t-shirts had started filling up the room with anticipation. 62 participants from across 31 districts had arrived for the conference and the atmosphere at Park Village Resort was soaring.
To celebrate the occasion of the third International Day of the Girl Child (IDGC), a three-day Girl Power Conference was held from the October 11th to October 13th. The conference was jointly organized by Women LEAD along with 12 other organizations namely AMK, CARE Nepal, CWIN Nepal, Equal Access , Plan Nepal, Restless Development Nepal, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, VSO and Yuwalaya. Every year on October 11, IDGC is celebrated worldwide to advocate for the rights of girls and address the unique challenges that they face.
This year, the conference was built around the theme “Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence. The conference brought participants together with the objective to empower them to end the various forms of violence against girls.
The conference included interactive sessions to enable adolescents to build the skills to tackle violence in their communities, especially the various forms of violence faced by adolescent girls. The conference ended with with a round table question-answer discussion session that included adolescents, policy makers, government officials, human rights activists and police, on their commitments to end the cycle of violence and empower adolescent girls in Nepal.
The conference aimed to empower the adolescent girls and boys through participatory workshops on social awareness, life skills, knowledge and participation. The sessions emphasized building adolescent girls’ leadership skills so that they can be powerful leaders and decision makers in the future.
Several of our LEADers took part in the conference as facilitators and volunteers. LEADer Sujata B, one of the facilitators at the conference, shares: “It was a very humbling experience for me to know that the participants really looked up to me and that I inspired them. They told me they would go back to their villages and teach their peers what they had learned from the conference. It felt really good to hear from them that I was one of the reasons they could speak up and voice their opinions in the conference. I was able to spark a change in them and bring a smile in their faces. It is an amazing feeling!”
Similarly, Supriya, another conference facilitator, says, “I am honored to be part of the conference because it gave me an opportunity to empower adolescent girls and become empowered as well. Adolescence is the phase when girls are most vulnerable to violence. Hence, this is an important time to teach them about their rights and responsibilities. When we empower one girl, it has a ripple effect and empowers other girls too.”
There were discussions and workshops around the topics sex, gender and rights, child marriage, sexual and reproductive health and rights, socio-ecological model of violence and so on. The participants also watched the Girl Rising video and had discussions around it. There was a session on social accountability called the accountability lab where the participants discussed learned about how accountability.
Women LEAD, with the help of Hollaback! Kathmandu also conducted an outdoor breakout session on self defense for the participants where they learned about the various ways to deal with street harassment such as filing an FIR. They were also taught some self defense moves when they are prone to harassment. The session was very interactive since it involved a fun physical activity and group work.
On the final day of the conference, a round table discussion was held between the six adolescents and six policy makers who came from various backgrounds like the Civil society, National Planning Commission, Nepal Police etc. where the participants posed important questions to the policy makers.
Nineteen year old transgender participant representing the LGBTI community Akansha asked an important question to the superintendent of Nepal Police, “When we are walking in the streets, we are harassed by the policemen themselves. What measures have you taken to control this behavior?” Participant speaker Sushila says, “If we are given the same opportunities that boys receive, then we can also be empowered and join hands alongside with men to work together for development.”Bimala Rai, Member of the National Planning Commission, explained, “the needs of adolescent boys and girls are very diverse and that we have to be very sensitive while designing policies for them. The issue of adolescents is a multi-sectoral issue. We need to integrate various sectors and design policies according to the needs of the adolescents.”
The three day conference ended with lots of hope and good memories to cherish for all those who were a part of it. We look forward to celebrating next year’s event with even more enthusiasm and excitement!