VOICE OF CHANGE: GULSHAN’S STORY

Gulshan Khatun

Gulshan Khatun, a 14 years old girl who hails from a conservative Muslim family was deprived of going to school because her family thought that the school uniform (Knee length skirt) demeaned their religion. But when Gulshan who is also a member of a local child club told her friends that a dress should not be a reason why girls from Muslim community have to leave school, they decided to hold discussions with the District Education officer (DEO). They requested him to hold talks with the school authority to be flexible regarding school dress code. After series of meetings with the DEO, the school that Gulshan was enrolled in finally agreed to let girls from Muslim community to attend school in kurta salwar.

Gulshan confidently states “People think that power holders do not listen to children like us, but they are wrong. If we gather together and strongly put our points in front of them, they will definitely listen.” She also feels that government officials should be well oriented on how to interact with young people, as she thinks that at times the harsh behavior and out-spoken nature of officials discourages them to reach out to them. That is why a more ‘child-friendly’ approach will do the trick.

Gulshan believes that despite social and cultural scrutiny one should not leave school, but think about options that will help them retain their studies in school. According to her “Education not only empowers a girl child, but it also helps them garner respect in the society.”

Gulshan dreams about being a computer engineer and wishes that her father gives heed to her request to buy her a computer set.

64 % adolescents feel that their participation in decision making process in local government can only be ensured if adults stop being judgmental and start respecting their views and opinions (Extracted from VOICES OF YOUTH SMS discussion)

TO ENSURE YOUNG PEOPLE’S PARTICIPATION IN DECISION MAKING PROCESS:

  • VDC’s should enact child friendly policies and promote it
  • Orient power holders on how to interact with young people
  • Make young people part of local decision making process
  • Respect and acknowledge their opinions and views without bias
  • Make young people understand the importance of their VOICE
  • Educate adolescents about the concept of PARTICIPATION

(All these views have been extracted from the field discussion and radio SMS discussion conducted by Saathi Sanga Manka Kura radio program)

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