VOICE 4 Girls is an organization working to combat gender inequality in India. The organization whose full name is Vital Opportunities in Creative Empowerment (VOICE) has a vision of a society where every woman holds the power to make the personal choices that shape her future. They believe that in order for girls succeed in their communities, it is vital that they develop marketable skills and understand the influence that they can have on the world. VOICE 4 Girls helps girls in India by implementing life skills programs that focus on the empowerment of women in schools and within their communities.
In the two years since its inception, VOICE has been working primarily through affordable private schools by providing an English immersion program. Their rationale for working in schools is that the educational system in India is failing in offering education for girls. Even though progress is being made in enrolling girls in primary school, only 52% of them remain enrolled in secondary schools. Even what they do learn in school lacks relativity to their daily lives and challenges. VOICE’s rationale for the English immersion program is that in India, English is acknowledged within families and within the community as a marketable skill that enhances a person’s employability. A girl competent in English, therefore, is more likely to be encouraged to go on to receive higher education than to go straight into marriage.
VOICE’s school programs help to instill confidence, independence, skills, and a sense of empowerment in adolescent girls through a variety of activities that promote creativity and community involvement. Not only is VOICE improving access to education for women, but it is educating them in new ways. VOICE’s methodology is holistic, engaging, and discussion-based. The curriculum addresses important and often taboo topics within society. Topics covered in the program include health and hygiene, pubescent development and reproduction, community safety, and women’s rights. By getting teachers, counselors, and parents involved in the process, VOICE promotes girls’ education and leadership in a way that can benefit the entire community.
VOICE’s new pilot project, Camp VOICE, has successfully provided an empowering method of education and counseling to girls ages 11 to 16 in low-income communities.
VOICE 4 Girls currently works with thirty-three affordable private schools in Hyderabad and six in Uttarkhand. It hopes to develop partnerships with schools in urban cities in Northern India as well.
Although VOICE 4 Girls is a small program with a small geographic focus, it has innovative features that can be easily replicated elsewhere. Camp VOICE’s camp curriculum is specifically designed to be replicable across developing countries where the need for girl-focused curriculums is the greatest. Its legacy, therefore, may be to reach thousands of girls living in developing countries and to inspire the next generation of women to take the future into their own hands.