Locked up at home ‘for their own safety’, managing younger siblings and household chores or being sent out to work in risky situations, thousands of young girls face extreme isolation – they are cut off from school, from peers from social interaction, and even from their own hopes, fears and aspirations. The harm doesn’t end there, as through their isolation these young girls all face the additional risk of being trafficked, exploited, abused or married off young.
Through Shakti, adolescent girls are connected to a peer network; are supported and empowered to recognise risk and develop strategies to resist pressures of child marriage, dangerous work, and being pulled out of school; to access services; negotiate for themselves; articulate aspirations and take steps towards achieving their life goals.
How Shakti Works
Peer networks or Shakti groups first and foremost ensure that young girls have the opportunity to leave their homes and be a part of a larger community. At group sessions, girls learn about their rights and entitlements, talk about gender discrimination and injustice, articulate their aspirations and make educational and vocational plans, and understand the importance of financial independence. Through this process, girls develop the confidence to speak up at home, negotiate for different choices and access key services and opportunities.
Being linked to other girls through a network creates a support system of peers where experiences are shared, connections established and relationships forged. No longer isolated, girls are better equipped to advocate for themselves.
Through individual work, girls are supported to recognise and be alert to risks to their safety. Each girl makes a personal safety plan—identifying support persons in her life, mapping safe and unsafe people, activities and areas, and devising plans to better protect herself.
Through community events and group projects girls develop the confidence to engage with local government authorities (such as the police, ward officers, etc.) and community leaders to drive change for themselves and their communities. Working as a collective, they reach out to people they would previously find it unthinkable to have the courage to speak to. They advocate for accessible toilets so girls are not susceptible to harassment when they go out to the field, for more patrolling by the local police, to improve community sanitation, etc.
Shakti groups are facilitated by Shakti alumni and young women – or shakti activators – who are themselves residents of the community where the groups are formed. They are trained to work with young girls, impart core curriculum, and to link girls facing imminent harm to Aangan staff. Through their work with girls, these young women are also empowering themselves to overcome their own personal challenges and negotiate for better futures for themselves.