MukkaMaar redefines self-defence by changing mindsets

Oct. 24, 2021, 7:25 p.m.

By:Reshma Jain

In just one year, India has slipped 28 places to rank 140th among 156 countries in the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2021, becoming the third-worst performer in South Asia. Also, the gender gap in India has widened to 62.5%. In just a few days of the nationwide lockdown, calls to domestic violence helplines doubled.

In India, girls and boys experience adolescence differently. While boys tend to experience greater freedom, girls tend to face extensive limitations on their ability to move freely and to make decisions affecting their work, education, marriage and social relationships. As girls and boys age, the gender barriers continue to expand and continue into adulthood where we see only a quarter of women in the formal workplace.

Gender equality seems like a big problem to solve individually. And that is where we are wrong. MukkaMaar drove this change through their partnership with BMC schools in Mumbai, with an intervention focused on 3000+ girls. MukkaMaar, founded by Ishita Sharma, is a non-profit organization that partners with government bodies to provide training to adolescent girls, enabling them to have greater agency. MukkaMaar had recently announced the launch of their impact research report, 'Power of Body, Voice and Mind for Every Girl' across 3,000 girls in celebration of the ‘International Day of the Girl Child’ which was observed on October 11.  Along with the research, the NGO also announced the launch of ‘POWER with Mukki’, a chat-based learning interface which will drive the MukkaMaar program at scale.

“We are very proud of our partnership with MukkaMaar to build mental, verbal and physical self-defense skills in girls. Over the years, I have seen how girls, parents and teachers have become sensitized. To educate a girl, would mean investing in lasting change in mindsets. ‘POWER with Mukki’ is a blessing for those girls who are unable to continue education because of lack of devices and data, and this initiative will open the doors for many such girls all over India,” said Raju Tadvi, Education officer, BMC Education Department.

Founder Ishita Sharma said, "To create an equitable world, we must invest now in girls and enable them to have agency. We must collectively focus our attention to address the deeply entrenched mindsets that cause girls and women to be treated unfairly. In MukkaMaar, it has been our endeavor to empower the most vulnerable girls and ‘POWER with Mukki’ is an attempt to leave no girl behind."

Stating that in just 3 years, MukkaMaar has trained over 11k people, and 315 government educators to create gender equitable classrooms, Sharma further added, “With 'POWER with Mukki', a conversation-based learning platform enabled on WhatsApp business API, MukkaMaar will be able to serve 10,000 girls by 2022. The platform is integrated with rewards and redemption without redirecting to any other platform. The users collect points as they progress through the modules and can redeem them as mobile recharges and data packs.”

Actor Richa Chadha said, “Self-defense among girls will continue to be a priority till we are able to change our boys. May the situation never arise, when one needs to defend themselves. But it's not just about fighting predators off, learning self-defense gives the girls more confidence in their own bodies, and makes them capable of expressing themselves better.”

Key findings of the impact research conducted by Illume Research, Bangalore:

  • One of the most significant influences of the program has been, not just the physical strength, but on developing the mental strength of the girls. It has helped them recognize practices and beliefs that limit their growth, even though they did not have support from their family.
  • Over time, this resulted in changing the mindsets of the parents. Fear over the safety of their girls used to cripple the parents before, which resulted in curbing the girl’s freedom in the illusion that it would keep them safe. Given that in 98% of the cases, the perpetrator is known, MukkaMaar brought awareness to the cycle of crime leading to confinement, leading to vulnerability, leading to crime becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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