The SELF (Sports, Expression, Leadership, and Freedom) Academy is a 15-day residential leadership, knowledge, and skills-building academy for girls and young women in the Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. The academy started in 2015 to support and strengthen the momentum of change initiated and led by the girls of our It’s My Body (IMB) program. The IMB program is a community-level intervention developed by CREA to support young women and girls by using sports as a medium to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights. After completing the IMB curriculum, girls from the program asked what next. This question led CREA responding by creating a space for girls where they could explore further opportunities, build additional skills- both vocational and life skills including decision-making and negotiation abilities. This led to the design of SELF Academy.
The SELF Academy focuses on sport, art, media, and technology to strengthen the leadership capacities and self-confidence of girls to resist and speak out against gender-based violence, abuse, and discrimination.
The residential program at the SELF Academy is designed to recognize the inherent capacity of girls as leaders, expose them to different skills, and encourage them to create support networks among themselves by creating an enabling and safe space. With a strong focus on self-confidence and leadership, the academy gives girls the confidence to break gender stereotypes and assert their choices; express their desires and aspirations; venture out of their homes, play sports in their communities, and collectivize and claim public spaces for themselves. SELF builds the self-confidence of girls to negotiate more control over their lives within their families and communities, to stand up against societal pressures like early and forced marriage and discontinuing education, discuss restrictive gender norms, and demand access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRH) information and services at the local health centers by organizing interphase meetings with stakeholders.
I feel more confident to try everything. Earlier we were always told girls can’t do this, girls should not go out, girls are weak etc. But, at SELF, we tried and did everything on our own. Now, when someone tells me to not touch a computer, bike or phone, I tell them I have made a film, I have taken photos and I play football. There is this new belief in myself which pushes me to do many more things.”
SELF Academy 2016 participant | Alumni Meeting, Jharkhand, 2017
The academy is designed to include local and contextual resources, role models, training, and employment information enabling the partner organizations as well as the girls to access these resources, networks, and spaces on their own post the academy. The academy also provides girls with access to locally available educational, training, and employment opportunities.
Watch some animated stories and artwork created by young women and girls from CREA’s previous SELF Academy. This series of short videos use the young women and girls’ own comics and voices to bring to life their thoughts and demands on accessing safe spaces, negotiating life choices, and using technology safely, among others.