11-year-old Diya grew up learning from her mother that a major reason why female infanticide happens is due to the inability to provide a huge amount of dowry at the time of marriage. Through her drawing, she expressed her loathe towards the practice. While interacting with her, we realised many young girls like her also want to pursue education and become economically independent.
Another 16-year-old year girl expressed how Indians like to identify themselves as Hindu, Muslim, Christian or Sikh but her message was we need to become a responsible human for our nation. Twenty girls participated in the event using their imagination and creativity.
Similarly, another girl expressed through her drawing her anguish and worry on the note ban that the Prime Minister had announced on November 8 last year and how her family of five are finding it difficult to support one another.
Another girl studying in a government school expressed her thoughts about how we are all Indians first by portraying a Sikh, Muslim and a Christian. These girls may not have all the privilege, but through their paintings, they have expressed the want of a better India where everyone is treated equally
The community that these girls come from have very limited access to education. Yet it doesn’t stop them from chasing their dreams. They are studying in government schools in and around Malviya Nagar, New Delhi and want to lead a better life challenging norms and conventions. Most of them are probably the first in their family to even attend a school.
While interacting with the girls, 15-year-old Rita (name changed) expressed her desire to visit the Select City Mall in Saket. Their houses are situated right opposite the mall yet visiting a mall often remains a distant dream for most. They dream of a better tomorrow. These girls, after the art event, shared their dreams; some want to pursue higher education and fulfill their parent’s dreams. Somebody wants to become an air-hostess, another wants to become a lawyer and another singer. They have dreams and aspirations just like every young Indian girl who wants a brighter future.
Imagine if our dreams had to die because we were denied basic rights like education or having the freedom to pursue a career of our choice. In India, even today, parents prefer getting their daughters married rather than allowing her to pursue her goals. Daughters continue to be discriminated against, from a very young age, and the discrimination begins at home when the brother is allowed a greater level of freedom and is allowed to fulfil his dreams. Her education is considered a burden on her parents.
Childhood is considered to be an integral part of a person’s life, but imagine growing up amidst poverty with very little access to education, proper healthcare and resources. Girls living in the urban slums of Delhi are often pushed into the peripheries, forced to let go of their dreams and aspirations at a young age. They are often not allowed to pursue their education or are forced into marriage at a very young age, and one sees an increase in the number of girls as young as fourteen dropping out of school due to societal pressure.
Poverty and dealing with a patriarchal mindset that sets limits rather than ensuring exposure to various possibilities are everyday battles. Action For Excellence in Children and Women Foundation (AECWF), a Delhi-based NGO that works with adolescent girls and women, organised the art fair for the girls from the nearby slums to unleash their potential and allow them to grow. The event commemorated the 68th Republic Day.
The theme of the art event was ‘one thing that I like or dislike about India’. The challenges faced by these young girls impact their growth and their will to succeed immensely. Therefore, it becomes important; to understand that despite the challenges they still strive towards a better future in this country of a billion plus.