Written by: Sumana Vardhan
Monika Kamble is an instructor for the Adolescent Girls Program and has been working at CRHP for almost 20 years.
How did you become interested in the Adolescent Girls Program?
I came to CRHP in 1996 after I was married. In 1998, I was working in Latur through CRHP, and the area had just suffered a bad earthquake. I saw the same group of women everyday while I worked and often talked to them about the weather or other casual subjects. One day, I saw one girl crying and went to ask what was wrong. She confided in me that her husband had kicked her, and she had been a victim of domestic violence since she was married at age 13. She was mistreated by her father and by her husband, neither of whom allowed her to go to school as they called it an unnecessary expense.
I was always aware of the problems girls face in all parts of India. After hearing her story, I felt motivated to help girls learn how to face these problems, and that is when my interest in adolescent issues began. In Latur, we started discussing these issues with the VHWs and families in the villages during the evenings.
What is your favorite part of teaching the AGP?
There are many problems that women face that we cannot discuss with our relatives or friends because it is considered indecent. These issues include pregnancy, menstruation, STIs, and many aspects of post-marriage life. Especially since girls may be as young as twelve years old when they are married, they have not even begun to think about what issues they will be facing. They will be living a new life with new people, and no one can tell them exactly what to expect. Nobody talks about it, but that is the reality.
What other CRHP programs have you been a part of?
I have also been a part of Village Health Worker training as well as Self-Help Group formation and development in Project Villages. In my own block, I currently lead around one hundred SHGs for women to discuss problems they face. For this work, I was honored with the Savitribai Phule award in social reform a few years back.
Why do you think International Women’s Day is important?
Generally, women in rural areas are not allowed to leave the house, whether because of their family rules or because of the amount of work they have to do within the house. It is only through programs and groups that they are able to leave and to meet with one another. International Women’s Day also gives them a day to celebrate themselves. It is a day that they should not have to worry about their husband or worry about what their kids are doing – they take the time to realize their own importance.
How are you going to celebrate the day?
I am inviting any and all women to celebrate with my SHGs and myself in my village for a day of singing, dancing, speeches, rangoli, and sharing experiences. It should be a lot of fun!