It came as a shock. I had recently started my internship with the Kiran Anjali Project when I saw the headline, “India is the most dangerous country to be a woman.” About 550 experts on women’s issues determined India is the most dangerous nation for women due to the risk of “sexual violence against women, as well as human trafficking for domestic work, forced labor, child marriage and sexual slavery, among other reasons.” The U.S. is tenth on the list. I know what it’s like to feel unsafe in a country in which one in four college women survive rape or attempted rape; I don’t feel safe walking alone at night. The reality is that it is even tougher for the less educated and the poor, who are twice as likely to have three or more violent experiences than people more well off. So girls in the Kiran Anjali Project’s partner programs are at a higher risk to experience violence and/or exploitation, and I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it is for them to live normally knowing that.
What does this mean on a day-to-day basis for Indian girls? A recent study conducted with Indian girls and their families found that:
- 60 percent of girls feel unsafe in public spaces, including schools
- 40 percent of girls are reluctant to file a complaint because they believe if they lodge a complaint, the police will blame them
- 20 percent of parents believe it is better for their daughters to marry early than for them to risk any harassment or assault in public spaces and ruin their reputation
As disheartening as the headline is, there is evidence India is on the verge of a change. There has been progress just within the past 13 years that has drastically changed India for the better, helping women one step at a time.
Improvements and progress include:
- The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, which was passed in 2005, guaranteeing more rights to victimized women.
- The Ministry for Women & Child Development, which gained ministry status in 2006, allowing it the power to create plans, policies, and programs.
- The passage of legislation in 2012 to increase the penalization of sexual assault, rape, and sexual abuse.
- The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, which was passed in 2013, protecting women from vocational-related sexual harassment.
The Kiran Anjali Project partner programs help girls prepare for a life in the world’s “most dangerous place for women.” Education plays a very important role. It is a key way to bridge the gap and improve conditions for women. Equality of education for both boys and girls can bring economic development, reduction in poverty, and better health to countries and individuals. This is how girls learn their true place in the world: being who they want to be. Education empowers girls. The Kiran Anjali Project does this through our partner programs such as:
- Baale Mane, a home for neglected girls. At Baale Mane the girls learn their rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child. Lessons are given on emotion, physical, sexual health, and legal rights. A big focus is for the girls to know their legal rights, especially that they cannot be forced into marriage under the age of 18.
- Wings School for Girls includes a Tae-kwon-do martial arts program. The program is extremely successful in building fitness and confidence. Girls are then able to feel empowered through being able to protect themselves as well as from the mental awareness that comes with Tae-kwon-do.
- Plus2 Scholarship Program, for 11th and 12th grade girls attending junior college, is requiring recipients to attend life skills workshops. A professional trainer will present on topics like street safety awareness, sexual health, healthy boundaries in relationships, and more. This practice is not only practical for the real-world, but it also empowers the girls. They learn how to take care of themselves.
Donors like you are making a big impact by educating girls who go on to make a difference in their families, communities, and nation. Your generous support funds programs that keep girls in school where they are safe, give them skills to defend themselves if needed, and teach knowledge of their legal rights to avoid exploitation. Thank you for supporting The Kiran Anjali Project! We could not do this without you.