Seventeen-year-old Shimpi Paswan could not believe that she had been chosen by the Canadian consulate in Mumbai to be the Consul General for a day on October 11, which marks the International Day of the Girl Child. “I am so excited and am looking forward to this,” said Shimpi, a native of Gagha village in UP’s Gorakhpur district and who started living in Thane from the age of eight.
Canadian missions in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru will mark the International Day of the Girl Child with a range of activities to empower girls and highlight the fact that they can achieve their dreams. In an official statement released on Wednesday, Canada’s High Commissioner to India, Nadir Patel, said at the High Commission they had been focussed on girls’ education as it had a direct and positive impact on development.
The Government of Canada along with United National Population Fund (UNFPA) had partnered with the Society for Nutrition Education and Health Action (SNEHA) for a programme to empower adolescent girls with social, health and economic assets. The programme was implemented in the slum communities of Kalwa under the Thane Municipal Corporation.
As part of the programme, girls underwent a series of training on issues concerning adolescents, including growing up, sex and sexuality, menstrual hygiene, sexual harassment, anaemia and nutrition.
While Shimpi regularly volunteered to disseminate information and create awareness on issues related to health, gender equality, harassment in public places amongst her peers in the community and at college, she also took a lead role in organising different community campaigns along with the SNEHA team, said Anuja Gulati, State coordinator of UNFPA.
Shimpi, demonstrated leadership qualities, and hence was selected as an agent of change. She was exposed to a multitude of activities, including workshops on developing a scientific temper; rewriting sexist Bollywood songs through a workshop on gaana rewrite and discussions on rights and legal literacy. Because of her leadership qualities, Shimpi was selected by the Government of Canada to act as the Consul General of the Canadian Consulate in Mumbai for a day. She also worked with peers to change sexist lyrics and challenge objectification of women in such songs, officials said.
Canada led the call for an International Day of the Girl Child at the United Nations in 2011 to raise awareness about challenges that girls face. The first such International Day of the Girl Child was celebrated on October 11, 2012. In New Delhi, the High Commission of Canada in collaboration with Plan India will welcome a young university student from Bihar, an advocate for girls’ rights, to take on the role of the High Commissioner for the day. In Bengaluru, the Consulate General of Canada in collaboration with the Indo-Canadian Business Chamber and Engineering Manufacturer Entrepreneurs Resource Group will host eight girls from the disadvantaged sections of society to “take over” as the Consul General of Canada and CEOs of seven Canadian and Indian companies for a day.