Karuna Trust

Our vision is of a world without prejudice, in which every human being has the opportunity to fulfil their potential, regardless of their background or beliefs. We aim to do this by challenging the ignorance and prejudice that trap people in poverty.
Apr 9, 2008

A further 87 supplementary schools in the Himalayas

Children
Children's dance in Demul village, Spiti

Thank you again for your support for the Himalayan education project; below is some latest news on developments...

The coming year is an ambitious one for the project since we aim to establish 87 supplementary schools and 13 Resource Centers in remote Himalayan villages from Ladakh in the west to Arunachal in the far east of India.

The challenge is increased as our team has to implement their work during the summer season before the snows come and block the passes to high altitude areas for between four to six months.

However, our team are very used to working with such constraints, and the scale of the work will be made easier since a smaller number of facilities were successfully established last year: 49 supplementary schools and 5 Resource Centers. Presently in the Himalayas the snows are starting to thaw so most of the team are in place to begin working on this year's activities. In all areas the sites for the new schools have been selected and village education committees, comprised of prominent and interested community members, are being trained on their responsibility to maintain the new school's facilities and smooth functioning, and for raising awareness among the village about the importance of education and how local people should be taking advantage of the supplementary school. An innovative dimension to this project is that 10 of the supplementary schools this year will be mobile (3 mobile schools were set up last year). These directly address the nomadic lifestyle of many people living in the Himalayas. Instead of having to send children out of the community to get educated, the new schools and teacher will travel with nomads as they move during the year. This way children can receive an education whilst remaining in their community, and benefit from the curriculum which has been designed to be culturally-relevant and culturally-specific. Through the Resource Centers, a number of courses will be run to stimulate employment opportunities among youth and to raise awareness of social, environmental, and cultural issues. Courses will be run for youth in business skills and photography, with a view to earning income from the increasing tourist trade. Locally relevant courses will be held on first aid and reading and writing of bhoti, the local language which is a dialect of Tibetan. We feel confident that the coming year will be successful in delivering these aims and contribute to the education and overall wellbeing of thousands of children from remote Himalayan communities.

Mountains in Spiti
Mountains in Spiti
Girl in Rogi village, Kinnaur
Girl in Rogi village, Kinnaur
Apr 9, 2008

Some recent news from the project…

The project has recently been involved with several incidents of violence and abuse against 'low caste' Dalit people:

• Meera, a 14 year old Dalit girl from Kitti Adgaon, died in an accident in Kunal Ginning near her village. Her clothes got caught in the electric motor, forcing her head to bang with such force against the metal that she died before reaching medical aid. The project brought pressure on the police to arrest the mill owner, firstly for employing a child labourer in his mill, and secondly for negligence in the premises, causing such a fatal accident. Meera’s parents, supported by project staff, refused to accept Meera’s body until the mill owner was punished and due compensation was assured. The project also demanded that strict actions be taken to prevent child labour from being employed in this manner.

• Riots broke out in Chausala as the upper castes attacked Dalit families who had claimed the grazing lands and started farming on these lands. Many upper caste youths attacked the homes of these families, destroying the household belongings, damaging their homes and physically assaulting many people, including women. Terror reigned in the community for some time, until project workers reached the settlement and brought the police to take action. Without such intervention the regular course of action is for the police to be on the side of upper caste families and refuse to register cases or investigate atrocities. Cases were registered on the concerned persons under the Atrocity Act – which the police are also generally reluctant to use, preferring the more lenient non-caste based legislation.

• Poonam Ghatge was burnt alive by a youth who was affronted at Poonam’s refusal to marry him. The youth absconded. The project had to intervene to get the youth arrested and the case filed.

A brief update on the project more generally:

In the last year, the project has identified 2 women leaders from each of its 100 villages and 3 senior women leaders from the 10 ‘blocks’ (areas). These leaders have been trained in gender issues, the status of women in society, relevant government legislation and schemes for women, discrimination issues and violence against women. In particular trainings on the Atrocities Act, the formation and running of savings and self-help groups, and ‘how to help a woman in distress’ have been carried out. In addition over 200 savings groups have been registered. #

Through public programmes, such as the conference on the October 6 Dhamma Chakra Parivartan Day, various key policy demands that are of benefit to women are brought further into the public arena and to the attention of policy makers, as well as galvanizing more public support behind them These include matters such as entering women’s names in all property and the mother’s name in the name of every child, and also the formation of a ‘Women’s Vigilance Committee’ in every ‘block’, and the implementation of the 2005 Bill to prevent Domestic Violence against women.

Dec 13, 2007

An example of how the project helps with cases of domestic violence…

This is a case of torture and harassment of a recently married girl, Shaikh Nasreen.

Nasreen got married at the age of 19 in 2005. Her father gave Rs. 15,000 cash ($380) as a dowry, jewelry and household items worth $1000 as a gift.

After her marriage she continued studying and got a first class mark in her 10th standard exam. Her teachers were very encouraging of her, but after her success, her husband started abusing her.

For 2 days she was locked in a room and not provided with food and water. Her husband and his family asked her to get a fridge, colour TV and washing machine from her parents and demanded money to buy a car. She refused their demands and said that her father was already in debt, and was not able to give a single penny.

After a few days, while she was sleeping, they poured kerosene in her room, locked the door and set it on fire. Fortunately, she survived.

After this she went to her parent's house and told them everything that had happened. However, her parents said she had to bear with the situation and sent her back to her husband's place. She went back and the abuse continued.

Finally she contacted the ‘Flying Squad’ project volunteers. They interceded with her parents and encouraged them to take Nasreen back and also helped her to register a case against her husband in the police station. Nasreen now lives with her parents and has recently found out that she is pregnant.

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