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This 19-year-old is reclaiming right of girls to access safe public spaces


ANI General News
Men may not think twice before accessing public spaces, but women clearly do so and to reclaim this right of free and safe access to public spaces 19-year-old Pooja Pasi along with other children from her neighbourhood is on a journey to fight for the right of women and girls.
Pooja, filled with youthful vigour and enthusiasm, commenced her journey at the age of 15 with the Committed Communities Development Trust (CCDT), a non-governmental organisation. She is now a member of the Child Protection Committee which is a programme run by CCDT.
At such a tender age, Pooja is well aware of the challenges that the residents of the slum locality face. Being a girl, she is passionate about the rights of girls who are unable to access the public spaces.
Concerned about the rights of children, especially girls', Pooja questions, "Boys get better treated than girls, which is why it seems that girls and boys have different rights. But both of them have the same rights. Then, why shouldn't the girls be treated at par with boys?"
"I want to be in a position of responsibility and help people to the best of my ability. I want to be a bank manager" says Pooja who is a Bachelor of Commerce student.
Pooja along with her family resides in Shivaji Nagar locality, Dahisar in Mumbai.
"There is a playground in Shivaji Nagar which is the only playground in the area. Earlier, only boys used to play in the ground. They used to drink and smoke; even the lighting in the ground was poor. Parents did not like to send their daughters to the ground because they were concerned about their safety. The girls did not use to come here even if they wished to because they did not feel safe," said Pooja.
The young fierce advocate of the girls' rights, Pooja finds it incomprehensible that why only boys have access to the only playground that is within their vicinity. She resolved to address the issue, and as a member of the Child Protection Committee, she took it upon herself to write to the municipal corporation requesting for installation of lights so that there would be sufficient lighting in the playground.
"We also met the police and requested them to patrol the ground. They understood our problems, and now, there is a police van stationed near the ground every day," she said.
At the slum, Pooja and the girls started noticing gradual positive changes that were taking place in and around the locality, especially with regard to the playground. The girls here are now finally able to use the ground.
"My real victory came when I helped in organising a kho-kho tournament for girls at the ground," she says beaming with pride.
Hema Pasi, Pooja's mother, initially was apprehensive of her daughter's involvement with the activities concerning girls' rights. But then, her daughter's actions began to bear fruits. Now, Hema has become a staunch supporter of her daughter.
"Initially, my mother was against the initiatives that I undertook for us, girls. But then I made her understand that girls have the right to access public spaces like the boys, she understood the cause for which I was fighting. I convinced her to help me. In turn, she convinced other parents to encourage their daughters to participate in the kho-kho tournament," said Pooja.
At the tournament, the girls turned out in large numbers. When the boys from the locality wanted to participate in the tournament, Pooja and other members of the committee organised a separate tournament for them as well.
Pooja with a big smile on her face said, "I feel very proud because it was through my efforts that girls can now play in the playground, which was earlier occupied exclusively by boys."
As a member of two committees under the Child Protection programme, Pooja takes part in various community activities. "I assist in children's school admissions, Aadhaar card registration. I also help in mobilising the women of the community whenever we need to raise or respond to any issue or put forth requests or demands to the municipality," she added.
The views expressed in the above article are that of Urvashi Sarkar of Charkha Development Communication Network.

Disclaimer: No Business Standard Journalist was involved in creation of this content

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First Published: Sep 29 2019 | 12:00 PM IST

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