Bengaluru teen’s UN Foundation-affiliated initiative tackles gender issues

Arzoo, a student of Stonehill International School in Bengaluru, started the Girl Up Stonehill initiative in August 2020.
Arzoo Sait
Arzoo Sait
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In mid-2020, Arzoo Sattar Sait, a class 11 student, was stuck at home, like most school students in the country. She wanted to learn more about gender-related issues faced in daily life, and so, she happened to attend a webinar where she learnt about Girl Up, a United Nations Foundation initiative started in 2010 to support UN agencies that focus on adolescent girls. Girl Up, according to its website, helps girls advance their skills, rights and opportunities everywhere.

In August of 2020, Arzoo established Girl Up Stonehill with the help of her peers and teachers. “There is a mechanism by which you can register a new club on the Girl Up website after specifying location, members etc. Then they add you to the group which has the other local Girl Up club founders in the country etc. I did the same after the school approved by proposal,” Arzoo tells TNM.

Since then, Girl Up Stonehill has been holding webinars, workshops and events that challenge gender stereotypes, and fundraisers to promote menstrual hygiene among underprivileged women. Arzoo’s initiative recently earned recognition on the parent Girl Up Instagram page too. “From hosting an event to bring meditation and mindfulness to their school to raising money for sanitary products to support underprivileged young women, @GirlUpStonehill is on a mission to bring their community together during COVID-19 and overcome gender stereotypes,” read the caption of the Girl Up global campaign’s post.


A post shared by Girl Up (@girlupcampaign)

One of the most recent events that Girl Up Stonehill organised was a ‘Dress Down Day’ on March 8, International Women’s Day, where students attempted to challenge the gender stereotypes through clothing and gendered labelling in fashion. “For example, suits are mostly associated with men, and dresses with women. We wanted them to understand inclusion and feel comfortable wearing clothes they wouldn’t normally associate with a gender. The Dress Down Day was also an attempt to challenge toxic masculinity such as by normalising a boy who wears a skirt, and a girl can still be feminine and wear a suit,” Arzoo explains.

“The response was amazing,” she adds. “The students started planning their outfits weeks in advance. It was so nice to see my friends get so involved… boys were painting their nails! Toxic masculinity is a big issue, but I think if one person does something, other talk about it, start getting comfortable, and then they do it together. All of the teachers and admin staff also participated, which motivated the students more.”

Earlier around Christmas, Girl Up Stonehill had also organised a fundraiser on Fuel A Dream in collaboration with the Rotary Club Indiranagar for making hygiene kits for women in rural Bengaluru in light of the pandemic. “We raised around Rs 70,000 through an online campaign and used that to make 300+ kits with reusable sanitary pads," Arzoo says.

"Our theme for that whole month was health where we put up Instagram posts and held webinars too,” she adds.

Presently, Girl Up Stonehill involves students from classs 6 to 12, while the executive council members are from class 9 and up. “It is not only a platform to educate others, but to keep learning about day-to-day gender issues myself,” says Arzoo. 

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