When Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ it was the one step towards raising attention on the girl child, to treat her as an equal to the male sibling. This year on October 11, 2020, to celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child, the District Collector Gandham Chandrudu of Anantapur took the most novel leap forward by launching an innovative programme ‘Balike Bhavishyathu’. Anantapur, the city in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, which is world-famous for handmade pure silk sarees, this time turned everyone’s attention on promoting adolescent women at the helm in government jobs. In the various tehsildar offices like Talupula, Kotha Cheruvu, Gutti, and Garladinne, girl students worked as ‘MADAMJI’s’ in the role of tehsildars, deputy tehsildars and revenue inspectors for the day to learn how to become leaders of tomorrow.
The United Nations
In 2020, the United Nations observes 25 years of its Generation Equality Mission under the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, for women and girls around the world. To mark this landmark occasion the International Day of the Girl, October 11, 2020, under the theme “My Voice, Our Equal Future” the day was celebrated to appreciate the power of adolescent girls as change-makers. Their three demands were being recognised,
- To live free from gender-based violence and from diseases like AIDS and HIV,
- To be able to get an education and learn new skill sets for the futures they choose for themselves, and
- To be leaders of social change.
The brainchild of Sri. Gandham Chandrudu, IAS, Collector and District Magistrate Ananthapuramu (Anantapur) district in Andhra Pradesh the International Day of the Girl Child was marked with celebrations of a different kind. The Collector held a teleconference with Joint Collectors, Sub-Collectors, RDOs, district officials and municipal commissioners to explain his unique idea where a girl child would be appointed as the head of the department in every government office for the day. The girls who were participating in the programme, ran the office of various department heads, including Revenue Divisional Officers, Mandal Revenue Officers, Mandal Education Officers, head of District Sports Authority, head of Sericulture Department, and other government departmental heads across different levels in Anantapur district. The ‘lady babus’ or ‘officers for a day’ who were allowed to see files and accompanied and advised by women working at various NGOs, we even granted permission to implement any reform if they deemed necessary in that respective department.
The Collector of Anantapur believes and shares his thoughts saying “In every field, women must have equal space, whether in administrative positions, politics, corporate firms, or as scientists. Women must be represented according to their proportion in the population. For that to happen, steps need to be taken from the time they are young girls.”
If India continues to have collectors like Gandham Chandrudu who encourage young girls to work towards “taking their seat at higher tables”, there will never be another mother who is tormented at giving birth to a daughter.
October 11, 2020 – International Day of the Girl Child with a Difference
Many young girls in the district turned government officers for a day, got an insight into the functioning of the government and the work of civil servants. The selected students between the age group of 11-16 years, were allowed to take charge of the offices from 11 am to 6 pm on October 11 functioning as Collector for the day.
When out on field visits the actual officials ensured that the usual protocol was firmly maintained during these visits and inspections.
Some interesting roles: –
Sravani a 16 year old took charge as Collector and District Magistrate of Anantapur from Gandham Chandrudu. In the course of the day, the young Sravani, a first-year intermediate student, signed on two files,
i. Authorized monetary compensation of INR 25,000 to a minor victim in an SC/ST Atrocity case, and ii. An official order that directs no official phone calls should be made to female employees of government offices between 8 pm and 8 am.
Madhusri, the Joint Collector of the day, had to visit a government site in Anantapur rural mandal, that was soon going to receive permanent homes under the housing development scheme for the poor. She inquired about the status of the residents and checked on their wellbeing. She also decided to take up the cause for farmers saying, “The groundnut crop has been destroyed because of heavy rains. I would like to provide compensation to farmers for their losses.”
Chinmayi, the Anantapur acting Municipal Commissioner for the day October 11, made visits to observe the condition of roads in the city, along with one-day Collector Sravani.
For the Collector this is only the beginning and a long journey for the adolescent girls too.
The girls were guided through the day by the actual officers concerned, whose place they took for a day. These respective officers will continue to mentor the girls for the next 10 to 15 years and guide them in their education, the Collector said.
The program was an eye-opener and very impactful on the girl participants. Sravani, the student from Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya in Garladinne, after attending the program and getting motivated said, “I am looking to solve problems related to road safety, child rights and education. I am concerned about animal welfare in rural areas, and waste management.” Further elated over the experience, Sravani mentioned such first-hand experiences can help young students understand the role and responsibilities of a bureaucrat better before deciding to opt for it. “I know the Collector sir as a committed officer. I liked his initiative and thank him for that,” Sravani told reporters.