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  • Writer's pictureReshma Jain

MukkaMaar redefines self-defence by changing mindsets

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 2 years ago, 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.

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 endeavour to empower the most vulnerable girls and ‘POWER with Mukki’ is an attempt to leave no girl behind."

Sharma shared that in just 3 years, MukkaMaar has trained over 11k people, and 315 government educators to create gender-equitable classrooms.

Actor Richa Chadha said, “Self-defence 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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