They ran mobile libraries to keep children engaged, taught younger children, motivated villagers to undergo COVID-19 tests and use preventive measures, conducted campaign against polythene bags, so that they could keep themselves constructively engaged during the lockdown period and help others as well.
Several adolescent girls, most of them from remote areas of Madhya Pradesh shared the initiatives they took during the COVID-19 induced lockdown and their experiences at an online meet ‘ChalkTalk’ organised on Sunday to mark the International Day of Girl Child.
Adolescent girls from Singrauli, Datia, Harda, Shivpuri, Indore and Tikamgarh shared their stories at the online meet jointly organised by NGO Child Rights Observatory of MP (CROMP), State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) and UNICEF. Around 55 participants from across the state listened to these stories.
Mahima Singh, a 12-year-old, class VII student from Harrai village in Waidhan of Singrauli shared how she ran a mobile library (on a two-wheeler) along with her teacher Usha Dubey of the local government middle school in the village.
She said since schools were closed during the lockdown and classes shifted online, children were home most of the time and would be very excited to get access to the books in their mobile library.
Usha Dubey was also present at the meet and narrated her experiences as well. Some friends of Mahima also joined the meet and made live posters on Girl Child Day to share with the participants of the meet.
Brajkunwar Panchal, 14-year-old from Semai in Datia, said from the beginning of the lockdown period she and her friends were engaged in spreading awareness about use of face masks, washing hands, and social distancing. “When health department team for COVID-19 testing came to their village, everyone was scared to get tested. So my friends and I opted to be the first ones to be tested so that others were motivated,” Brajkunwar said.
Jyoti Srivastava of Datia spoke on how the youngsters of village, including her, took up the initiative to help reduce polythene garbage in their village.
Radhika from Shivpuri said she and her group of friends started teaching children who could not attend online classes once a week so that they did not miss out on studies. They also spread awareness on use of masks, social distancing and hand washing with soap to prevent COVID-19 infection.
Bharti Khandekar, from Indore, shared how she was living life in a shanty by the roadside, but after she scored good marks in class X exams, her family was allotted a house and she got a mobile phone as gift from the Indore Municipal Corporation. This happened due to intervention of SCPCR, she said.
SCPCR member Brajesh Chouhan, who listened to the experiences of the girls, appreciated them and said SCPCR will support these initiatives, recognise them and help them in overcoming any challenges they face while implementing their initiatives.
Nirmala Buch, president CROMP, said it was indeed motivating to listen to these stories and how they can influence the work being done for children. CRO stands with adolescent to support to strengthen these efforts, she said.
Anil Gulati, communication specialist, UNICEF, Madhya Pradesh, who coordinated this interaction, said events like ‘ChalkTalk’ were useful and give space to adolescents to share their experiences with representatives of states and civil society organisations who work for them.