Pots and Beans:
Pots and beans activity was designed by Save the Children, UK to learn quality of participation. Children voted on 9 criteria out of 3 marks. One being the lowest and three being the highest. The voting done in open manner with discussion and taken by consensus. Overall average (all our 20 community) is 2.77 out of 3. The criteria are as following: 1. Inclusiveness. 2. Transparent and informative 3. Child friendly 4. Relevant for children 5. Supported by training 6. Accountable 7. Respectful 8. Safe and sensitive to risks 9. Voluntarily. 422 children took part in this activity.
In Balsena there is no discrimination between children and adults based on caste, religion or gender. We play together. If someone is making mistake they are not excluded or “OUT” but they are included or “IN”.
Informative and Transparent:
If there are any meeting all the children are informed. We are given information in a manner we understand. If we have any question they are answered in a respectful manner. If there are any donors or guests who come for visit we meet them. If we need to go out of our area or city for any meetings or trainings our parents are fully informed.
Girls and boys are respectful towards each other. Age appropriate activities are conducted. We never get beaten up or made to feel low. We children support each other during the activities and also learn from our peers. We are not discriminated against in Balsena by children or adults.
Relevant for Children:
Age appropriate activities are conducted in Balsena. The activities are designed keeping in mind our needs. We are taught skills that are necessary in our life. Our wishes are taken into consideration while doing activity. Activities are done in a manner we understand.
Supported by Training:
Active and council children are given training first and then we give trainings to other children by along with the facilitator. We help facilitators in many activities. We are given Wenlido trainings to be safe from abuses and learn how to make safe decisions. Trainings are conducted in a practical manner where we can learn through experiences and practice it in our daily lives.
Whenever there are any programs the facilitators take care of us. If we face any issues they stand with us. Council members also take responsibility. If we go out of our area our parents are informed and if they phone the facilitator then they give reply in a respectful manner. We are dropped back to our houses after we come from exposure visits or camps. If anyone falls sick during the camp the children and facilitators really take care of the child.
Girls and boys call each other ‘Bhai’ and ‘Ben’ which means brother and sister. They behave respectfully with each other. The facilitators always talk with us with respect. They never yell at us or insult or humiliate us.
Safe and Sensitive to Risk:
We feel safe when we come to Balsena. We are taken care of without any discrimination. We are picked up and dropped at our home when we go out of our area for any program. Our parents are also informed in this case. We are also provided with nutritious food when we go to the office for the training.
We come to Balsena because we want to. If there are any activities on the point that we do not like then we change it. Sometimes when we don’t feel like participating in some activities we are never forced to. Most of the children arrive on the point by themselves. We also design programs by ourselves. We are given options and never joined anywhere forcefully. They never threaten us.
On 2nd February and 1st March council meetings of Balsena children were held. 60 and 55 children participated in the meetings consecutively. During the meeting children discussed about reporting of activities in their point, issues that they are facing, plan for vacation camp and parents meeting. They also made a letter box for children to share anonymously if they are not able to in front of everyone for any sensitive issues.
Adolescent Girls and Boys Program:
On 2nd February T.O.T. with leaders of the teams was organized. 59 children participated in this T.O.T. on adolescence. The topic was on anger and how to manage it. Children shared about the reasons they get angry and what they could do to understand and manage it. They came up with 50 solutions to control their anger.
This topic was later conducted in 33 Balsena points by children with the help of facilitators. 621 girls and 572 boys participated in this. They also did a role-play about when and why they get angry. While discussing about the situation when they get angry, children shared that when they are punished without their fault and not being listened they get most angry.
5 Parents meetings were organized during month of February and March in all 4 zones of Balsena and 1 centrally. 192 Parents took part in these parents meetings. Mr. Rasool was invited to speak with parents about different government schemes that they could benefit from. During the parents meeting discussed about what children are learning in Balsena and what changes do they observe in their children, about child rights and issues they are facing in the communities. Some of the parents shared their worry about their girls. We took this opportunity to inform them more on Wenlido (A personal safety tool for self-defence for women and girls) and encouraged them to send their daughters to the trainings.
One day training:
In the beginning of March we facilitated a one day training with 75 boys and 58 girls who are leaders of their team. The training was on theme of taking care of environment, problem solving, what is leadership. We also took this opportunity to spread awareness about COVID-19 and how they should take care of themselves. This training was done in groups to ensure distancing.
Holi is one of the favourite festival of children. It is festival of colours. Children celebrated Holi in their points. Children loved colouring each other and the facilitator. We also spoke to children about harm of chemical colours and ensured that they play without them and use less water.
Wenlido Practice groups:
Wenlido is as mentioned above a personal safety tool for self-defence for girls and women. It is our goal to train all the girls in Wenlido. So far we have trained 81% of Balsena girls in Wenlido. We recognize that one training is not enough, practicing the principles, helping girls resolve through the issue and a space where they can freely share their challenges and questions is equally important. We organize practice groups with these objectives. In the month of February we organized 7 practice groups with 3 age groups of girls. 105 girls from different communities took part in these sessions.
Following are some of the things girls shared with us and what teachers and parents shared during Focused group discussions.
Meena (name changed) a 10 years old girl shared in the practice group that before the training she used to go with everyone who called her. It could be her uncles, grandfather, neighbours, etc. but now I ask them questions about where they are taking me and for how long and I also inform my parents.
Varsha was always taught that as a girl you have to be quiet, speak in low volume and not go out alone etc. She was a very bright student and always focused on her studies only. After taking Wenlido training she realised that other skills are also necessary. She also shared with her mother about the training “I learnt something that I never learnt at school.” In the FGD with parents, her mother shared that she is so happy to see confidence is blooming in her daughter.
Teachers from one of the schools, shared that they are noticing that girls have more confidence after they took Wenlido training. Before that they couldn’t come to school alone, they always came with their parents or in an auto rickshaw. However, now that has changed and they come to school alone too. In classes also they are speaking up more and giving more answers to the questions. They have started taking their own decisions as well.
One girl was returning from her tuition class when some of the boys of her tuition class started following her. She told this to her tuition teacher and asked for help. The teacher called the boys and scolded him. After that the boys are not harassing her anymore.
10 years old Neha had come to Wenlido training. Once her uncle was touching her inappropriately. Neha said a firm “NO” to the uncle and also told her parents that the uncle was touching her inappropriately and she didn’t like it. Her parents supported her and her father told the uncle to not come to their house again.
During one of the Wenlido trainings with school girls, they seeked support for two boys who bullied them in the school. We gave them more tips on how to handle bullying. Facilitator gave the case to the childline. Childline team discovered that the situation in his house is really bad. The boy and their family members are going through family counselling.
Focused Group Discussions:
We have conducted Focused group discussions with children, parents, teachers and Child Protection Committee members to get feedback on Balsena, what are the things they like and not like, what they have learnt and what has changed.
FGD with Children:
In the discussion with the children we found that due to Adolescent program, girls and boys now help each other instead of fighting. Boys also work at their home along with their sister without any shame or shyness. Boys also bring their sisters to point, help them increase their self-confidence and let them take leadership. Girls and boys also go to each other’s houses and parents trust them.
Adolescent girls and boys shared that if they like someone, they share it with the facilitator who guides them instead of judging them and lets them take their decision. This helps in a healthy relationship between girls and boys.
FGD with Parents and Child Protection Committee meeting:
Parents share that children don’t discriminate anyone after joining Balsena and they challenge us to change as well in this regard. After joining the Saving Bank program they understand value of saving. They share their challenges and learning with us and refuse to go to places where there are child labours or child marriage happens. They are making lots of good friends as well.
FGD with Teachers:
Teachers shared that Balsena children do not discriminate with others based on their gender, caste or religion. They have healthy relationship with the opposite gender. Balsena children teach activities they learnt to other children. If there is anything wrong or needs improving then they immediately tell us and helps find solutions too. They plan different programs, execute it and invite us as well. Girls who have taken Wenlido trainings tell us if they are facing any difficulties regarding menstruation, their home or any harassment. They ask for help. We are also witnessing that their self-confidence also rises and they give more answers in the classroom.
Response to COVID-19:
Due to COVID-19 Pandemic we closed all our field work around mid-march as per guidelines of Government. Before closing however we spent time in field to educate children on what are the thing they should do like frequent hand wash and wearing masks.
As the lockdown started around end of March, we closed our offices and started working from home. We are organizing calls with the team every day and taking the update of how they are doing. We are also taking this opportunity to learn and discover more activities, songs, stories and dances. We are also reading books and attending webinars to strengthen our concepts of education, adolescence, life skills. We are also making detailed plans for the next year especially in view to the pandemic and the lockdown. We are currently planning to work on their mental health and how to help them through self-designed learning.
Ration Kit Distribution:
People in our communities suffered a lot with the lockdown as most of them are daily wedge earner or a casual worker. They are part of the unorganized sectors. Due to the lockdown they had a hard time gathering something as basic as food. With help of Divya Bhaskar Newspaper company Shaishav distributed ration kits to 225 families in our area. Shaishav team members identified this families as the neediest.
During the distribution of ration kits we witnessed that sometimes adults would fight for the ration but children really identified who needed it the most and gave it to them even though their situations were not ideal.
Hardik was Vice President of Balsena last year. He helped in identifing names of these families in his area. As we did not have ration kits for everyone, we decided to identify the people who needed it the most. Hardik identified 10 families from his locality. During the distribution the facilitators felt that they should check before giving so if he has made any mistakes there won’t be a problem afterwards. However as the facilitator went around she found that these families were indeed the most needy. Later, facilitator spoke to Hardik’s mother and asked him to congratulate Hardik for doing wonderful work. Mother told the facilitator that Hardik was pressurised by his cousin to write down their name for the ration kit but Hardik didn’t write. When she spoke to Hardik about it, Hardik said, “He pressurised me, but I knew that they had already got one kit so I did not write their name.”
Many Balsena and Tarunsena children played a key role in identifying and distribution of ration kits in their families. They have emerged as a pillar of strength in their communities.
Calling and taking updates from children:
Mental Health of children is one of the biggest side effect of this lockdown. Our facilitators are calling all the children of Balsena where we work and getting their updates of their wellbeing. They are also finding out if their family is facing any challenges or whether children are facing any domestic violence. During the calls facilitators are also explaining the children and their family members about how to stay safe, what to do and what not to do. So far they have called around 1300 Balsena children. Most of the children are doing fine but they are tired of the lockdown and eagerly waiting for Balsena point and schools to resume. They are doing their studies and watching TV and playing around. However, girls shared that their work load has increased since they don’t go to school anymore. In the few cases where we felt the need for intervention we referred the cases to emergency helpline for children-childline. During the call facilitators also encouraged children to bring out their creativity and create stories, do paper craft or drawing, etc. Facilitators shared that in the second round of the calls many children had created new thing.
We will be continuing this until we are able to visit them in the community.
Ashish is from Madhiya road community. They didn’t get drinking water in his school. ‘How can I take up this issue and how do I present it?’ He asked the facilitator. With the guidance from the facilitator, he presented the issue to his school Principal and pursued it till it was resolved. Now they have drinking water in the school. Ashish and his friend Kishan also shared in Child Protection Committee meeting about road block issue in their area. It was decided that they will send petition in the Municipal Corporation. They both helped in getting signs on the petition. The issue was then presented to Municipal Corporation .This issue was then resolved.
In one of the points, a girl shared about a man who used to stare at her. She shared this with all the children at her point during adolescence girls and boys program. Some of the older boys took initiative after hearing her problem. They went and spoke to the person and solved her problem.
When doing an activity of understanding emotions in adolescent program one boy shared that his father gets angry very fast and throws tantrums on his mother and beats her up frequently. He resolved that I will not become like my father and take out my anger on others. I will try to calm my anger through different methods.
Motitalav is a very conservative area. Parents tell the girls not to talk to boys. Girls and boys used to fight before but now they cooperate with each other and work together. They managed to convince their parents as well. Some parents are also seeing now that it is healthy friendship so they don’t nag their children any more.
We have been sharing about Asmi’s story in past reports. This is further update. Asmi was assulated when she was just 15 and traumatised due to this. She refused to go out of her house. After attending Wenlido training she slowly gained her confidence back and started assisting us in the Wenlido trainings. Asmi is now assisting us in all the trainings of Wenlido. She had never gone out of Bhavnagar, but now she is a full time volunteer and she is living and working with us in Aaranyak, our new project in Dediapada. She has gained her confidence back and though she is youngest other local facilitator look up to her.