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A Catalyst for Change: Rehana’s journey to Empowerment

Rehana: The lady with a mission to bring about empowerment

Name: Rehana
Age: 33 years
Hometown: Bajal Padpu village, Dakshin Kannada district, Mangalore, Karnataka, India

Rehana is an Aanganwadi* Worker in Bajal Padpu, Mangalore, India and had undergone Breakthrough training in the year 2009 - 2010. After the training she was in touch with the team so when she was contacted in 2013 for facilitating adolescent trainings in her area she happily agreed. Rehana organized trainings for 25 adolescent girls who belong to her area. These girls were from a Muslim community with an education level of Grade 8th to 10th. Coming from very traditional families, they were not allowed to continue their school as the high schools were all farther away from home. Very few girls actually managed to reach up to college. Rehana had observed issues like sexual harassment and early marriage being faced by these girls. Thus, she strongly felt the need for them to undergo the training and learn about their rights, gender, sexuality and also about violence. From the start Rehana was very confident that if these inputs were given to these girls they would make the most of this knowledge and devise smart ways to live a safe and secure life. As planned, she continuously organized 5 trainings for these groups. After the training Breakthrough also organized an exposure visit for them where Rehana accompanied the girls else their parents would have denied them this experience. She later helped the girls fulfil their wish to create a space of their own in the village to learn and enjoy so they opened a “Home of Rights” in the Anganwadi Centre which served as a resource centre where Breakthrough contributed lots of good books, games and other sports items.

This whole process was very enriching for the girls and Rehana, and the changes silently seeping in their personality were very conspicuous. The girls were intelligently applying all the learnings in their life. These processes distressed some of the community members who went ahead and lodged a fault complain against Rehana saying that she was misusing the Anganwadi Centre. As a result she had to face enquiry from the Centre Supervisor but Rehana was not discouraged by this. She diligently handled the situation and presented her case to the Supervisor giving a complete justification for why she did so. The Officer ultimately appreciated her work and the partnership she had developed with Breakthrough. This episode only added to Rehana’s strength and her determination to remain a strong crusader for the rights of women and girls.

Alongside training these young girls, Rehana also worked to stop a child trafficking case in her area. She took this case to Child line and with the help of the department of Women and Child Development she was successful at reuniting the child with her family. Her commitment and passion was not just applauded but also widely acknowledged in local newspapers and media networks.

Rehana is not just an agent of change for these girls but the community at large and portrays a perfect example of breaking stereotypes and standing up for dignity, equality and justice.

* Anganwadi is a government sponsored child-care and mother-care center in India. It caters to children in the 0-6 age group. The word means "courtyard shelter" in Hindi. They were started by the Indian government in 1975 as part of the Integrated Child Development Services program to combat child hunger and malnutrition.

Young Muslim girls attending the training sessions at the community center
Voicing their opinions: A young girl speaks out her thoughts in one of the trainings

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