Inspiring: These tribal girls are the change agents for gender equality in Odisha

Gender equality has found its place in the sustainable development goals of the UN. To continue the discourse on it and to motivate the youth of the country, UN Women came up with an event- Step it Up- held at the India Islamic Cultural Centre in New Delhi.

To talk about the scenario in the tribal areas of Odisha and how women’s empowerment is starting to become the centre of conversations there, were Mandakini Majhi who is the first kho-kho player from Odisha and Shanti Murmu, founder of Parivartan- an initiative to promote awareness regarding empowerment and various myths. Both are the students of Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences in Bhubaneshwar, a college that provides free higher education to tribal children.

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Majhi has joined the Indian women’s kho kho team and recently won gold in the 12th South Asian Federation Games 2016. “Being a girl from a tribal community, I was never given a chance to go out of my house that much. Sports was not even in the picture but when I joined the college, my interest in it developed,” told Majhi to SheThePeople.TV.

Majhi was good at studies and when someone told her about free education provided by this college, she fought with her parents to study further. She spoke about the society’s small-mindedness in trying to influence her parents to not let her go as “I was just a girl,” she said. They would say, “Who sends their girls to study outside?” in her community.

Shanti Murmu and Mandakini Majhi

Shanti Murmu (L) and Mandakini Majhi (R)

Another Odia girl, Murmu founded Parivartan in her community back in Odisha to address the problems related to girl child education, early marriage, myths surrounding menstruation and overconsumption of liquor by men leading to domestic violence against women.

“I was not so strong before joining college, but as I studied I became aware of the adversities women go through and realised that it is not normal. It was then that I decided as I became aware, I will make others aware too in my community,” said 18-year-old Murmu.

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She added, “Through Parivartan, I have arranged core teams of Anganwadi workers who are spreading awareness about these issues in other villages as well.”

Murmu is the daughter of a daily wage labourer who saw that in her village when a girl started menstruating, she was not allowed to come out of her house. She explained that this became a huge problem as they were not able to maintain proper health. “So now I have started mentoring people about the need to maintain a girl’s health, that violence needs to be stopped and education should be for all and not just for boys,” she cleared.

“A child without education is like a bird without wings,” Murmu leaves us with this thought.

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