Today, the United Nations’ International Day of the Girl Child celebrates and recognises the rights of girls and the challenges that they face worldwide.
This story highlights the experience of a Lucknow girl, Kalyani, who simply wanted to dance.
Gender norms are a major theme of Project Kissa Kahani, a narrative-based research project conducted in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India.
A strong example of such norms in action is Kalyani’s brother, who forbade her from participating, after learning that Kalyani had entered a dance contest. His actions undermine the recent changes towards gender norms in the country. Children are often brought up with strong views on gender and the differences between men and women.
The times, however, are changing.
Kalyani’s father challenged conventional wisdom and became the strongest advocate for his daughter’s dreams. He does not endorse the desire to shield her from the outside world. Rather than limit her aspirations, Kalyani’s father gave her his blessing and his whole-hearted support, allowing her to dance.
Thus, she gained the confidence to spread her wings and soar.
“I have stopped regretting being born a girl,” says Kalyani.
With the support of her father, the world has opened up for Kalyani. She is no longer plagued with self-doubt and the perceived limitations of being a girl.
This story is a good example of the role of fathers to foster spaces of hope and healing for the young women and girls in their lives. Fathers can set meaningful examples for their sons to facilitate the voice, power, and agency to support girls in whatever ways they may need, when they may need.
The real hero of this story, however, is Kalyani as she dares to be a brilliant girl in a world that is sometimes overprotective and binding.