I thought that this week, as well as posting a story from the project, I could also bring attention to this article which was doing the rounds in the office last week. It makes for quite interesting reading, and highlights why the work of Dr Mune and her team is so crucial in India.
"...a survey that caused indignation in India last month: a poll of 370 gender specialists around the world that voted India the worst place to be a woman out of all the G20 countries. It stung – especially as Saudi Arabia was at the second-worst. But the experts were resolute in their choice. "In India, women and girls continue to be sold as chattels, married off as young as 10, burned alive as a result of dowry-related disputes and young girls exploited and abused as domestic slave labour," said Gulshun Rehman, health programme development adviser at Save the Children UK, who was one of those polled.
Look at some statistics and suddenly the survey isn't so surprising. Sure, India might not be the worst place to be a woman on the planet – its rape record isn't nearly as bad as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for instance, where more than 400,000 women are raped each year, and female genital mutilation is not widespread, as it is in Somalia. But 45% of Indian girls are married before the age of 18, according to the International Centre for Research on Women (2010); 56,000 maternal deaths were recorded in 2010 (UN Population Fund) and research from Unicef in 2012 found that 52% of adolescent girls (and 57% of adolescent boys) think it is justifiable for a man to beat his wife. Plus crimes against women are on the increase: according to the National Crime Records Bureau in India, there was a 7.1% hike in recorded crimes against women between 2010 and 2011 (when there were 228,650 in total). The biggest leap was in cases under the "dowry prohibition act" (up 27.7%), of kidnapping and abduction (up 19.4% year on year) and rape (up 9.2%).
A preference for sons and fear of having to pay a dowry has resulted in12 million girls being aborted over the past three decades, according to a 2011 study by the Lancet.
A glance at the Indian media reveals the range of abuse suffered by the nation's women on a daily basis. Today it was reported that a woman had been stripped and had her head shaved by villagers near Udaipur as punishment for an extramarital affair. Villagers stoned the police when they came to the rescue. In Uttar Pradesh, a woman alleged she was gang raped at a police station – she claimed she was set on by officers after being lured to the Kushinagar station with the promise of a job.
Last Wednesday, a man in Indore was arrested for keeping his wife's genitals locked. Sohanlal Chouhan, 38, "drilled holes" on her body and, before he went to work each day, would insert a small lock, tucking the keys under his socks. Earlier this month, children were discovered near Bhopal playing with a female foetus they had mistaken for a doll in a bin. In the southern state of Karnataka, a dentist was arrested after his wife accused him of forcing her to drink his urine because she refused to meet dowry demands.
In June, a father beheaded his 20-year-old daughter with a sword in a village in Rajasthan, western India, parading her bleeding head around as a warning to other young women who might fall in love with a lower-caste boy."
Read the full article here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/23/why-india-bad-for-women
Name of Beneficiary: Komal Bhagnath Satbhaiyya.
Age: 15 years.
Class: 10th Standard.
Name of Community: Katarvasti.
Since last year the project team has been working in our community. We were curious about life skills classes. The staff did a survey and conducted home visits. They also called a 'parents meeting' to introduce their programme to our parents. Thanks to this, my mother and father allowed me to go for life skills class. All the girls present were very happy and enjoyed the class very much. Apart from the subjects which we learn in our schools, we received information about important issues in our daily lives. i.e. nutrition, hygiene, communication skills, and self-confidence.
We also had the opportunity to visit a police station, bank and an orphanage. These visits allow us exposure wider society and to have confidence to face certain situations. Before this, we only thought about the world that surrounded us and what we knew, but after participating in the different programes I have started thinking beyond these boundaries. For the first time in our lives we entered a police station. We had a chance to interact with the police and allay the fears we previously had about them. In future if we should have reason, we are now capable and confident enough to ask for the help of the police. We also learned what a bank is, and how it functions. We have decided to open savings accounts in future.
We girls like this class very much. Every day we eagerly wait the arrival of our teachers so we can learn something new.
There are 5 of us in my family. My mother is a maidservant, and my father is a manual labourer. My older sister is married and my brother works as a helper at the airport.
I stopped attending school when I was younger, and spent my days at home, where I would do nothing. One day I heard about a stitching course that was being offered and decided to join. I finished that course, but unfortunately I didn’t learn very much. I didn’t feel satisfied with the classes. I was looking for something better.
Then one day, I heard about the stitching classes run by Karuna Prabha’s project team. I also heard very positive things about the quality of the teaching, so I decided to enroll. It has really helped me to continue to pursue this interest of mine. I am now able to stitch many different types of blouse. I’m even earning a little money from it!
I’m so happy to learn these skills, and very thankful to the teacher and the Foundation for giving me this opportunity.
Thank you so much.
Name: Nilophar Nisar Shaikh.
Age: 18 years
Education: 12th STD
"First, let me thank you for letting me build my strength and confidence. I quite shy by my nature. After completing 12th standard, I was at my parents home, unsure what to do next. As soon as I came to know a computer course was running, I enrolled my name for it.
Along with computer skills. we also learned about personality development, communication skills, how to prepare our curriculum vitae, and how to handle interviews. All of this information was essential in me getting a job.
Now I am working at Alfa to Sparsh. The computer skills I learned on the course are completely relevant to my work.
There are four of us in my family. My father works as a watchman in the community. After completing the 12th standard, I did not leave my home. I used to help my mother with housework, and I did not think much about any goals for the future. Then one day, a member of the project team came to my house and told me about the vocational courses they are conducting for adolescent girls. My mother was persuaded to let me go with my friends to learn computer skills.
At the time of joining, I didn't want to do much more than this one class, but the positive atmosphere and encouragement of the whole project made it worthwhile. I learned many other valuable things alongside the computer skills, such as communication skills, and the issues of adolescent marriage in our community.
My mother and father are very proud of my progress.
Thank you to the project and the whole project team.
It is such noble work to support girls like us, who would otherwise never leave the house, and be dependent upon men for our whole lives. Thank you very much for helping us to become independent.
Name: Rubina Chand Patel
Age: 17 years
Education: 12th STD
Address: Phule Nagar, Vishrantwadi.
Rubina says: “Aap bahot acche ho! Aap ne to hamari zindagi badal dee!!”
(You are all very kind! You have changed our lives!)
"My family has seven members. Father is wage labourer and mother is a house wife. My elder sister is married and my brother is working at 'diamond pool'. My younger brother and sister are in school.
I am in 12th STD in an Urdu school called Anjuman Islam.
One day I came to know about the life skill classes. In our community girls from our religion are not usually allowed out of the house. Fortunately, the life skills class teachers came to my house and my friend’s and persuaded our parents to send us to the classes. We wear our Muslim 'Burkha', and come to class. I don't like to wear it, as it covers our whole body and face.
We started to go to life skills classes which were conducted in a common community space in our neighbourhood.
We very much enjoyed the life skills classes. We received valuable knowledge and information from teachers at the class. We learnt about the police station and bank; what and where they are. We learnt about the menstrual cycle. We also learnt what child abuse is. All of these things are really important for us to know, but we didn't know anything about these things before. Our parents are also pleased that we have learnt about these things from the classes."
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