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Girls Advisory Council reconvenes to shape EMpower’s upcoming India strategy

Posted 30 April 2019 in EMpower News, Grantee Partner News   |   Share


On April 13 and 14, the Girls Advisory Council (GAC) reconvened for its annual meeting in New Delhi. Over two days, the girl leaders put their heads together to give vital direction to EMpower’s next phase in our India strategy (2019-2022).

DAY 1: We began with a “reporting exercise” where girl leaders broke into pairs, chatted with each other to collect information and then reported back to the group about how the GAC has impacted their lives. It was heartening to hear how each girl leader has been able to create a dynamic shift in the way her family and community views her and the weight her opinions now carry. We heard stories of how their peers look up to them as their role models and reach out to them for suggestions and help.

The group recapped last year’s GAC meeting where the girl leaders came up with 12 recommendations that they believe are key for programs to succeed:

  • engaging with parents
  • connecting girls to government schemes
  • beginning early
  • involving counselors’ support
  • creating a girls-only space
  • sensitizing teachers and trainers
  • engaging with alumni/alumni as trainers
  • engaging with employers
  • asking NGOs to consider expanding the scope of whom they work with to include more young people
  • focusing on building girls self-confidence and decision-making abilities
  • working with boys
  • addressing gender-based violence

After last year’s GAC meeting, EMpower had launched a unique award initiative where its current grantee partners were invited to send proposals guided by the girls’ recommendations.These proposals were reviewed by the Council members and the winners ran six-month pilot programs centered around one key idea identified by the girl leaders. At the GAC meeting this year, the winners spoke about the impact of these programs, and the results reaffirmed the value of involving girls in decision-making to create more impact. The pilot programs provided useful metrics to test the feasibility and impact of the girls’ ideas.

At the end of the first day, each girl leader and the organizational representative accompanying them were presented a copy of the Girls Lead brochure that captures the Girls Advisory
Council’s story since its inception, the journey so far and what lies ahead. The girls were ecstatic holding this brochure in their hands as proof of the instrumental role they have played in EMpower’s work – both in India and globally.

  • The EMpower team proudly summarized the accomplishments of the GAC with the group since its launch in 2018:
  • Last year, two girl leaders representing the GAC interviewed candidates for a staff position in EMpower’s India team.
  • The GAC’s recommendation of “engaging with parents” inspired the theme for EMpower’s Spark and Ignite Award in 2018. This award initiative inspires and enables strong grantee partners to “think outside the box,” and to experiment with a new idea or approach that will create more opportunity, agency or skills for adolescent girls.
  • The voices of the girl leaders were amplified at an international conference organized by Azad Foundation on “making non-traditional livelihoods work for the marginalized”.
  • The GAC constituted the panel at a review process hosted by the Girls First Fund and facilitated by EMpower to select organizations working to end child marriage.

DAY 2: While Day 1 was about looking back, Day 2 was about making important decisions for the future of EMpower’s work in India. After a quick recap of EMpower’s previous India
strategies, the girl leaders dived into an activity that would shape the next strategy.

Before coming to the GAC meeting this year, each girl leader spoke to nine other girls from her organization to get suggestions on specific issues within livelihoods, education and health that EMpower should focus on going forward. Each issue highlighted by these girls was listed down and the Council debated over the importance of including it in EMpower’s upcoming India strategy. After every round of discussion for a particular portfolio, the girl leaders would all cast their votes. Through this exercise, the EMpower team was able to hear a voice representative of a larger group of girls and facilitate a very useful dialogue between the girl leaders to decide on their top three choices from the pool of suggestions. After this exercise, the Council presented its choices with the rationale behind each selection.

The EMpower team is currently collating the girl leaders’ inputs to create the third phase of our India strategy – which will be implemented from 2019-2022. We plan on sharing a short brief about the strategy with the Council in July and the fully developed strategy in September.

We also collected feedback from the girl leaders to get an elaborate account of the change they have experienced after becoming a part of the Girls Advisory Council. Speaking about the development that she sees in her family, one girl leader Sandhya shared – 

“Whenever they have to take a decision, they consult me. They think if their daughter can provide advice to others then we should also ask her.”

The girl leaders now see themselves as experts, and are more reflective in terms of thinking about issues that affect them. They demonstrate better informed attitudes related to equitability in gender roles, privileges, restrictions, gender attributes, and gender violence, and are better equipped to articulate examples of program-level solutions that can address these issues in their community. The girls’ feedback also demonstrated that being a part of the Girls Advisory Council has encouraged them to communicate with peers, family, and community about issues girls face, and to think differently about their futures. See more information on the GAC HERE.

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