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.
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.
It’s a great pleasure to bring to you news of a joyous day from our girls' lives.
On Sunday, 9th June, 255 girls of Vacha braved heavy downpour, and a soggy ground to participate in a Sports Meet organised by girl leaders from eleven bastis (slums) in Mumbai.
Girl leaders from Vacha projects had made several plans to challenge the restrictions levied on adolescent girls by their families and community. The first one was to take out a rally in their communities to raise their voice against gender discrimination they face in homes and in society. They also performed street plays in their own and in neighbouring communities on the same theme. The last of the series was the Sports day event. With great enthusiasm they conceptualised and planned this Sports Event. With the unceasing rainfall throughout the previous night, organiser group thought their dream of having an exclusive girls’ sports event would remain only a dream. How wrong they were! 255 girls – more than the number that had been expected even on a sunny day – turned up to participate in the sports event with an eagerness that was as incredible as it was infectious!
The day started with simultaneous cricket and kabaddi matches between teams from each basti. In the Cricket field, while a few girls were not able to hit many balls delivered, some batswomen were hitting making four runs again and again, defying both the rain and the fact that they had hardly been able to practise. While players on the cricket field kept breaking assumptions that girls can’t play cricket, kabaddi matches continued in full swing nearby. The girls were not bothered by the mud and the rains and pounced on players from opposite team to guard their field. The kabaddi teams played with the sort of grim determination that only teenagers, playing for the ‘honour’ of their basti, can have. Other than these sports, games such as basketball, darts, bowling alley, weight-lifting had also been put up in stalls. As a girl leader who had helped organise the games remarked, “We have gone on many outings and events of Vacha before, but never have we had so much fun! I had only planned on a sports day, but today we had a water sports day!”
Other activities have gone on regularly but we are limiting this communication to share girls’ and ours joy and excitement on Girls’ Sports Day.
Greetings from Vacha.
This report tells you a spectrum of activities that took place from January 2013 till date.
As part of the project the girls are encouraged to acquire new skills and knowledge and take action on issues that concern them. The girls released their own community newsletter and sold it in their communities. They also performed street plays and delivered speeches at the public functions at the Indian Republic Day celebrations.
Vacha had organized two major events as part of the One Billion Rising -OBR- campaign. It was celebrated across the globe in almost 165 countries and women and girls were expected to rise against violence by singing, dancing and protesting. More than 500 girls participated in a fair in Kalyan, Thane district where they sang and enjoyed kite flying as well as participated in many activities in various stalls that encouraged them to express themselves, talk about their bodies and safety. In another event organized as part of OBR more than 1000 participated in the event organized at Juhu beach in Mumbai. A women sand sculptor prepared an appropriate sculpture and the girls shouted slogans, performed street play, recited poems and encouraged the men in the gathering to support their campaign against violence. The girls have also taken out rallies in their communities to raise the issue of gender equality.
One important development that we would like to report here is that during the Fair in Kalyan many girls reported inappropriate behavior of a few male teachers from their school at a stall where they were encouraged them to write on topics such as why is it like this? I would like to bring about change in/ I am happiest when./ I do not like that .. This issue of teachers inappropriate behaviour was followed up with the school and action was taken against the relevant male teachers by the school authorities.
8th March -Women's Day was observed as Mothers' Day by girls in all centres. This year, in addition to the fun filled activities for the mothers like singing, dancing and some indoor games, an innovative initiative was taken up. A questionnaire was prepared with some very simple but important details about the women such as the name of their best friend, their favorite food, age at marriage. The answers given by the family members were cross checked with those of the women themselves. The family in which maximum members knew maximum answers was honored in a public function in each centre. The objective was to make families realize that the woman, who cares for the whole family and caters all their likes and dislikes, has her own preferences in life too! It was also to highlight that women's personhood needs to be acknowledged and respected by families. The girls were trained to use the questionnaire in their families. Some of them had discovered new role models in their mothers by the end of this whole process as they came to know of hidden qualities, achievements and silent strengths of their mothers.
The Diwali festival was in the middle of November and so schools had a 3 week Diwali/winter vacation during the month. This was an opportunity to have fun filled activities and workshops. Regular sessions in English, library, general knowledge and computer use continued. Many girls are comfortable using computers and that makes their mothers happy and proud. The skill will help girls work on their own publication in form of leaflets and newsletters in January. Added is another empowering skill in form of photography for a relatively new group in Pisavli near Kalyan in Thane district. A 2 day workshop in photography was held. It was originally a village that is now under the impact of urbanization. The girls had never used a camera before. After a workshop they have learnt to take pictures of people and objects of their own choice instead of being only objects of a photograph. With basic knowledge and techniques of photography, they are encouraged tell their stories of daily life through their own pictures, in short to document it.
The girls under this project also attended a 1 day workshop on gender to contextualize their daily experiences of discrimination and control of their mobility etc. Some of them shared their perceptions and feelings about this situation, which were discussed by the group. It seemed the girls do feel strengthened by being together and doing activities collectively.
A hundred girls attended a health camp where their blood samples were tested for identifying their blood group, hemoglobin count and body mass index. This is important for adolescent girls, most of whom are denied necessary nutritious food because of traditional mindsets. This, coupled with heavy household chores, leads to a lot of girls and young women becoming anemic and having a low body weight. A session on low priced healthy food was arranged for girls and young mothers. However, it must be admitted that girls have very limited choice in selecting what to eat due to male centric household menus and son preference for good food.
An Educational Fair was held for about 150 girls in Pisavli, where there were gender and health based games and activities. This was a good way to expose a large number of adolescent girls to the issues of gender. It was also a way of creating a space in the community which was meant only for girls, and where they would be able to just play without inhibitions. Their amazement and joy at having been invited to such a place was infectious. It was a task to close the Fair and pack up for the day that evening!
In Netivali community, girls participated in an Anti-Superstition workshop and saw how it is that self-acclaimed religious gurus use sleight of hand to perform ‘miracles’ and cheat them. The belief in superstitions is a huge problem in many communities in India. These beliefs take on religious significance to the extent that many people refuse to go to a qualified doctor and instead rely on superstitious practices to cure themselves. It was important to expose the younger generation to the deceit and irrationality involved in these practices.
Girls in Malwani community participated in a puppet making workshop and also learnt to use the medium of puppets to express themselves. These girls being from conservative Muslim families are not allowed to take part in other self expression activities such as dance or theatre which require them to perform in public. Therefore, puppets are a good way for them to express publicly while being behind the curtains, literally, as puppetiers.
Participating girls in all three communities plan to use these skills to make public presentations to their community members based on their thoughts on various issues of girls and of the larger society.
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