Life skills training of 300 girls in Mumbai slums

 
$47,822
$2,178
Raised
Remaining
Vacha receives Dasra Award, pic. courtesy Dasra
Vacha receives Dasra Award, pic. courtesy Dasra

Dear Friends,

You will be happy to learn that Vacha has won the Dasra Girl Power Award in the life skills category for 2014 and a prize of Rs. 10 lakh (INR 1 million, USD a bit over 16,000.00). There was an all India competition for the award. Vacha was first short listed and then selected as the finalist for it. The award is for the same work that you are supporting through Global Giving so each one of you, our esteemed donors,  have contributed towards  our refining and expanding the programme and finally winning an important award for it in India. Out team sincerely thanks you or it.

Republic Day 2014:

As you know Vacha youth bring out their own newsletters twice a year. They collect information, take pictures, conduct interviews and form committees to type and edit the newsletters. In some areas this year they brought out 11th edition of their own newsletter that they themselves produce and sell. The newsletter was released on January 26, the Republic Day. Different communities had different versions and these were released along with public performances by girls such as street play performances, power point presentations, speeches and rallies with messages about girls’ rights.  Local elected representatives, teachers, social workers, and their parents and peers attended these public events.

The Women’s Day

A major event that was helped organise by girls at all centres was a Women’s Day event on March 8th. Women across 15 bastis in Mumbai, Thane and Valsad (South Gujarat) were invited to spend a few hours away from their house work, and celebrate themselves through games, songs, and other fun activities. Girls had planned competitions and other activities for their mothers to enjoy on Women’s Day, and had a blast seeing their usually reticent mothers fight with each other to win the prize! Women shared with each other about their hobbies and dreams, and found the space to express themselves.

Exams and Vacation

Every year we used to note a declining number of participants in Vacha classes for 2 months from mid February. They said they had to study for the final exams in early April. This year, wherever possible, we turned Vacha centres in to study spaces. Girls like this as they get some quiet and comfortable space in which to study. Their homes are small and crowded. They also have to perform many domestic chores if they are around. In Vacha centres they have books, dictionaries and a facilitator who can help them with their studies.

The final exams will be followed by a long summer vacation. A number of workshops and other activities are planned for all those who will not be going off to their native villages.

Remember Rehana?

‘How does one say on seeing one’s own tongue after a long long time?’ exclaimed Rehana when asked how did she feel after her major dental surgery? We had mentioned her problem last time. Rehana’s cheek had puffed up and she could not open her mouth fully. She meshed food in to small balls and pushed it in through a gap between her teeth in one place. As a child she had tried to run and hide from a strict family elder and fallen down. She had hurt her mouth and the dentures did not align. The treatment was very painful so she gave up after a while. Her cheek kept puffing up. She could not speak clearly but she was fascinated by Vacha class and kept coming. The Vacha ‘teacher’, the social worker Deepa Pawar, herself from a deprived community, pursued the matter with her and her family and arranged for an important surgery at low rate. She stood by Rehana every moment. The family raised some finance and Vacha contributed too. Your contributions helped. Today Rehana can open her mouth and look at her tongue for the first time in many years. She can take proper nutrition too. She has more confidence now and better self esteem. ‘I am going to be a professional photographer’, she says. And she will certainly emerge as one. Why not?

As we near the end of this phase of our project we sincerely hope you will remain with us always and support us in helping girls acquire skills that will make them active and visible in community leadership and help them emerge as strong productive women citizens.

Rehana - before surgery
Rehana - before surgery
Rehana - after surgery
Rehana - after surgery
Deepa Pawar, who helped Rehana
Deepa Pawar, who helped Rehana
Girls shouting slogans at rally organised by them
Girls shouting slogans at rally organised by them
Performing street theatre on rights of girls
Performing street theatre on rights of girls

Links:

At a gender and health fair
At a gender and health fair

Friends,

First of all, please accept our best wishes for Christmas and the New Year. A greeting card is attached showing girls at the end of a craft workshop. Thank you for making them so happy and for contributing to their training in life skills and leadership.

Christmas comes within 6 to 8 weeks of Diwali so Holiday atmosphere picks up again. There are many Christmas parties and church events in Mumbai. End of the year is a big event since the January first is the beginning of the common era that we all follow. There are many lunar calenders for other holidays.  During Diwali holidays, besides the health camps, two fairs were held in two communities. The focus was on health and gender with a lot of fun activities. One of the workshops was on simple data collection and small surveys inside their own bastis (slums).  They are quite excited about finalizing their questionnaires to collect information. One group will do it on harassment of women and girls in streets and the other on the functioning of ration shops that sell basic essentials like food grains, fuel etc. to the poor at rates subsidized by the govt.  These girls are in 14 plus age group.

The good news to share is about Rehana, 18, who had a major problem in eating. Due to a fall some years back her upper and lower jaws totally lost their alignment and her one cheek had lost its shape. After a while the family gave up treatment in a public hospital, possibly due to ill treatment by staff, long distance or plain ignorance. Rehana was also scared of surgery. Some from our team convinced her for its need. One arranged for lower medical costs in a semi private hospital. We have encouraged the family to raise some funds and we will pay the rest from what you have donated to us. We are told the surgery was successful and Rehana will be able eat through mouth after some years. She had been taking only liquids through a straw all these years. She is about to leave hospital and we will be able to share pictures with you next time.

Engaged in Group Work During a Workshop
Engaged in Group Work During a Workshop

Attachments:
Eye Checkup
Eye Checkup

Dear Friends,

Warm greetings from Vacha, Mumbai .

November started with Diwali festival. There was a 3 week vacation in schools. So it was a fun filled time for girls and scope for workshops and other activities. Fairs, sports and such events were organized.  An eye camp was held in one centre for checkups and follow ups.  Some girls were found with problems for clear sight. Four were provided with glasses and 17 were given eye drops. Two health later camps were for checking level of hemoglobin and general health. The results are being checked but BMI suggests problems already. Meetings with mothers were held but price of food grains and vegetables have shot up so much ( 278 per cent in one year  according to Times of India dated November 15, 2013. This after the already inflationary prices in last 3 years.) that mere counseling will not help much. We are also negotiating for girls to have equal share in food and counseling girls to eat adequate vegetables etc. and not to observe religious fasting where they can.

 Health camps were held in three places. In one centre, mothers also came for checkups.  In all 242 girls were covered in an eye and general health camps. There were checkups for sight. Additionally, Hemoglobin count was taken and, BMI measured. Spectacles and eye drops were provided to to17 girls.  As follow up action, awareness meetings were organized with mothers and implications of low level of hemoglobin and food intakes were discussed with them. In the meantime, nutritious items are provided for one girl with health problems. The happy news to share with you this year has been that one of the participants, who was sent for early checkups because one of our team members had early surgery and is a cancer survivor now. The great thing as that she passed her final year school exams of class X with 92 per cent, a level coveted by the rich kids who are lucky to have good private tutors as well. She has entered the Science stream now and we hope to support her financially now for further studies.

A Special Day:

Your contributions have helped make our programme vibrant and exciting for girls as you must have seen in the reports. Today many girls have acquired important life skills and have started participating in community events. They are planning their future with more clarity and confidence and have learnt to take initiative and to negotiate where necessary. The process is continuous. 

We have a great chance to strengthen our position and work more intensively with vulnerable girls from poverty affected families through raising funds on Tuesday, December 3. Microsoft is giving a dollar for dollar matching grant (up to USD 1000.00 per donation) to certain chosen organizations who receive donations within 24 hours from Tuesday  12 -01 noon EST to 12 noon the next day. Please donate generously to us on Global Giving online through credit card or PayPal only and encourage your friends and others too. Your donation will double this way in volume and we will get the double benefit.

Please donate as early as possible on Dec. 3 one second after 12 noon Eastern Time in USA so that we get this double gift before the amount of USD 250,000.00 matching grant from Microsoft is exhausted.

Thanks and regards,

Sonal Shukla, Nischint Hora, Medhavinee Namjoshi

For blood chekup
For blood chekup
For BMI checkup
For BMI checkup
At a gender and health fair
At a gender and health fair
Girls disseminating leaflets on their rights
Girls disseminating leaflets on their rights

 Dear friends,

October 11 was the International Girls Day. It was celebrated enthusiastically by girls in our program who took initiative in asserting girls’ rights through leaflets and in activities like gender and health fair, health camps and in other ways. One of the ways of celebrating the Girls’ Day will be sharing with you from these activities. We begin by sending a leaflet created by girls in 11 -16 age group in which they talk about girls’ rights through poetry. They distributed over 1500 leaflets in various poor neighbourhoods. You may not know Hindi but you will still appreciate their creativity, enthusiasm and courage that come thru the efforts at creating a low priced leaflet on their basic human rights and disseminating it in their neighbourhoods.

As you know, Global Giving has announced a substantial contribution of up to USD 200 or more depending upon the amount collected through at least four recurring donations between Dec. 20 to 31 with a commitment to donate every month. Please visit Recurring Donation Match for more information.  We will be most grateful if you respond positively and help us avail of this opportunity by committing to donate recurringly from end of December.

The low status of girls in India is clear from the continuous fall in their number compared to boys. The surviving girls in poor communities do not get adequate nutrition or education. Traditions control their mobility and access to resources. Our project of education and empowerment of girls by equipping them with 21st century life skills is executed in 15 slums. Girls are active in this as learners and change makers. Your continued goodwill and support will strengthen them in crucial ways.

Sonal Shukla

Vacha, Mumbai

Door to door contact to highlight girls
Door to door contact to highlight girls' rights
International Girls Day Leaflet created by Girls
International Girls Day Leaflet created by Girls
Community members after buying Newsletter
Community members after buying Newsletter

Dear Friends greetings from Vacha.

Indian Independence Day, which falls on August 15, was brought in with a bang by students of Vacha. Like every year, once again, they released their community newsletters, named Hamari Baatein (Our Voice). This is a newsletter that girls and boys of Vacha come out with on every Independence Day and Republic Day. It is their newsletter in every sense – girls and boys gather news ideas, take interviews, write articles on their community issues, their rights and any other aspect that they want to document, edit them, type them out and also raise nominal funds.

This 15th August, 11 newsletters were released simultaneously across 11 bastis of Mumbai, out of this 7 were by girls’ groups and 4 by mixed groups of Vacha. For many groups, this was their tenth edition! To mark the occasion, editorial team from each group had decided that every newsletter would focus on one particular topic. All the articles would delve into different aspects of that topic. Thus, while one newsletter focused on the importance of ‘right to education’, another explored the debates surrounding the issue of ‘right to food’, and yet another took up the prevalence of superstitious beliefs and their harmful effects. Many newsletters featured articles on the threat to girls’ safety in public places. Keeping this common concern in mind, one piece carried in all the newsletters was a list of helplines and contact numbers for women in distress or facing violence. Other than these, the last page of every newsletter was dedicated to fun and games. Girls and boys came up with puzzles, jokes, poems, songs, photographs and drawings to fill this space.

The newsletters were released in each basti along with the flag hoisting ceremony of that area. The release was accompanied by public performances that had been prepared by each group with much anticipation. They performed street plays and took out rallies on issues such as girls’ education, girls’ right to safety, against sexual harassment in public places, against the problem of garbage and about right to food.  Other than these, there were also patriotic songs, dances, speeches, power point presentations, film screenings and even one human pyramid hoisting the national flag! In short, the day was a power packed one, with performances across bastis in Juhu, Santacruz, Vile Parle, Andheri, Jogeshwari, Malad and Kalyan.

The release was followed by students in each basti selling their newsletters to community members, and discussing issues covered by their articles and in their performances with those interested. Many community members and local leaders appreciated their efforts. Seeing the quality of the street play performance that one all girls’ group had put up, the local leader of their area promised to give them some prizes during the next release to boost their confidence. Mothers shared that their daughters had become more expressive and vocal because of their participation in the newsletter making process. Others said that their children hardly got the chance to participate in their school functions, Vacha’s newsletter release program was the only place where each student got some part to play. One mother said that her son had left his school program midway to be a part of the release function! 

Let me also share with you that this October global giving is trying something new and hosting three regional Bonus Days based on project region. They are offering a 30% match for all three Bonus Days. For our project the bonus day is October 16 and, to congratulate top fundraisers, they will offer two $1,000 bonus awards for each Bonus Day: one for the project with most funds raised and one for the project with the most individual donors.

You have been generously supportive of our project throughout this year and this last special occasion of the year is a good opportunity to further our cause. We are sure you will continue your support so that our girls can have many of such exciting and enriching experiences even in future.

Girls performing Street Theatre
Girls performing Street Theatre

Links:

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Organization

Project Leader

Sonal Shukla

Mumbai, Maharashtra India

Where is this project located?