Child Rights Week
From November 14th-20th, Shaishav celebrated Child Rights Week in Bhavnagar. This culminated in International Children's Day, on November 20th. For Child Rights Week, Shaishav's team-including Balsena members, Tarunsena members, Shaishav's staff and Alicia, an international funder from Child Reach International-marched into 30 slum areas, singing slogans against child labour. 41 street plays were performed about the Right to Education Act (RTE), and 29,000 flyers were distributed, about topics ranging from RTE to Child Line (a national initiative, "first responder" service offered by Shaishav for children in trouble). 2,500 individuals watched and absorbed information from the educational plays. Simultaneously, 36 "Balmelas" were held in different communities, where 1,763 children played games and created art in a safe space. Child Rights Week culminated with a press conference, in which Shaishav presented their baseline data and Child-Friendly Communities work to community members and the press. The District Collector was invited as our "chief guest," and several "Bal Dosts" (friends of children) spoke about their experiences advocating for child rights. As a result of this press conference, Shaishav's message was spread over two state level news channels, all of the local news channels in Bhavnagar as well as three local newspapers.
Child Friendly Communities Update
Shaishav finished collecting data for our Child Friendly Communities (CFC) research. Shaishav was selected as a pilot organisation for a new child friendly communities research tool kit being pioneered by CERG – the Child Environments Research Group, part of City University New York. 10 child, 13 youth and 8 adult researchers thoroughly surveyed 27 communities, allowing children and adults in the community to advocate for their own children, identifying the problems that affect the children in that community. Data analysis is finished, and now Shaishav is creating action plans with the children who live in these communities. Some of the key issues identified include: a lack of safe spaces for children to play, no primary health care facilities in the area, no local high schools (resulting in children and youth traveling far distances to attend), a lack of awareness about child rights in the community, and much more. Be on the lookout for updates about our action plans!
Dream a Dream Lifeskills Training
Shaishav has formed a new partnership with Dream a Dream, a Bangalore-based NGO who provides life skills training to children and youth. Dream a Dream came to Shaishav for a two day "training of trainers," at which Dream a Dream facilitated leadership and life skills development through games, art activities and drama, with the goal of making Shaishav staff more effective leaders during their jobs. Shaishav is excited to welcome back Dream a Dream for the second round of this training.
New Office and Training Center
Shaishav has officially moved to a new office! Thanks to donations from both the Share and Care Foundation, as well as the Asha Vijay Foundation. Shaishav has a significantly larger space. Although we were able to transfer the infrastructure from our old office quite easily, we are now in the process of fundraising to create a new training center! This presently unfurnished area will be used as a child-friendly space for Balsena events, such as leadership camps, as well as internal and external trainings. Look for updates soon on how you can help!
Meet Drashti, Balsena’s President
Drashti is Balsena’s outgoing president and one of the direct beneficiaries of your support. She is typical of many Balsena children in the way she has overcome a tough home life to persevere in achieving her goals.
‘I enjoy all Balsena activities. Unfortunately, we don’t have much time for picnics in my family, but Balsena gives me the opportunity to do these types of fun things with my friends. I am always happy when I am part of Balsena activities. Most of my friends are also in Balsena.
‘At school, I like science the most. In science we are always exploring new things and learning how people have come up with solutions to challenges. This mirrors my life – developing new problem-solving skills every day!
‘I faced discrimination as a girl, both in my family and in society. For example, if I want to go outside and play in the playground, my parents forbid me from playing with boys and make me stay inside to play instead.
‘When I first joined Balsena I did not know about my rights at all. As I understood more about my rights and how to access them, I have been able to make lots of positive changes in my own life and work towards solving my own problems. I know that education and equality with men is my right, but rather than fighting my parents on these points, I am able to convince them slowly but surely by rational discussions and showing positive examples. This kind of change takes a long time, but I am convinced of the benefits through what I have learnt at Balsena.
‘Balsena activities are mostly practical, so it’s easy to understand and properly learn new things by actually doing them. At school we only learn theories from textbooks so it’s not as interesting or as useful.
‘I enjoy the family atmosphere of all Balsena activities. Participating fully in all planning and activities is great – I am not consulted about any decisions at home or at college, but within Balsena we all get to share our opinions and plans and get the best solution for everyone. This is very different from the rest of my life.
‘I would love all children in my community to join Balsena. The environment is not clean in my area, so I would love to see it cleaned up and kept clean. We could solve this problem through collective strength if only everyone agreed to work together. People also fight quite a bit, which could also be solved if we agreed to work together and accept our differences.
‘I want to be a social worker. Free, full education for all would help me achieve my goals, and would help all other children too. Through my role as Balsena president I already get to do lots of social work activities, so I am proud that I am already achieving some aspects of my goal. I don’t feel the need to do a degree to follow my goal – my practical experiences are already helping me achieve this, and I am grateful to Balsena for that.’
Comic Relief Project Underway
It may not be the right time of year for Comic Relief’s biennial feast of philanthropic fun, but it feels like we are wearing red noses every day here at Shaishav. April 2013 saw the official start of our new Comic Relief-funded project, after three years of formulating a project proposal.
After Lenny Henry and friends have announced the fundraising total, away from the bright lights of a London studio, Comic Relief relies on partners such as us to implement the poverty-solving ideas funded by the British public.
This is our largest every grant, from one of the world’s largest funding agencies. It will allow us to expand our programmes and advocacy to help an even greater number of children. It also represents recognition of the impact we have made so far.
The project lasts until March 2016, by the end of which we hope to have empowered children to be their own change makers and shown key duty bearers that the failure to grant every child their rights is not a laughing matter.
2013 Baseline Survey Completed
Dodging monsoons and withstanding the humidity of the season, our communities team spent June and July visiting every house in Bhavnagar’s slums to make a comprehensive study of the status of slum children in the city.
Collecting the data is a phenomenal feat. We have to draw and update maps of the areas to ensure every household is covered. We then conduct a thirty-question interview with every family, a painstaking process that involves marking each house with a painted number to ensure there are no missed households and making several repeat visits to those families who are out.
The prodigious collection of data then has to be computerised and analysed in the office. It is used to identify problems faced by children in the city and measure our impact.
Analysing the thousands of questionnaires we completed is ongoing, and we hope to give you the synopsis of the results in our next update.
New Advocacy Groups Launched
To advocate more effectively for child rights in Bhavnagar and Gujarat, we have launched the Bhavnagar Child Rights Network at a city level and, through the Child Rights Collective Gujarat, a state chapter of the Right to Education (RTE) Forum at state level.
The first is a group made up of child rights NGOs in Bhavnagar and has already met with the new local government collector, who is ultimately responsible for all services that affect children in the city. The group discussed real problems children face, problems that can be solved easily, such as dangerous overcrowding on the auto-rickshaws that transport children to school in the slums.
Talks were constructive and the next meeting, scheduled for October, will develop a strategic action plan to prioritise which issues are most important and how to resolve them.
The second group is concerned with the effective implementation of India’s Right to Education Act. Passed in 2009, the act made free and compulsory education a universal right for all children, but there have been tremendous difficulties implementing it.
The Gujarat state chapter will see Shaishav work with education networks, teachers’ unions and other NGOs to improve the delivery of every aspect of the RTE Act. Effective implementation of the act will boost the prospects of all children in Gujarat and transform the country for generations; Shaishav is proud to work towards what could be a seminal point in India’s history.
We are continuously grateful for your support and hope that this report has given you an idea of how your money is helping to deal children a better hand in life.
Today sees the launch of our 200 Pound Push specifically for all our supporters based in the United Kingdom. By raising only £200 on the UK GlobalGiving site, we will be able to launch Shaishav on its sister site in the United States. This is because we must have raised the equivalent of US$5,000 in the UK before our project can be accepted on the US site. Helping us with this will spread the work of Shaishav to a far greater audience and provide our American supporters with a way to donate in dollars, avoiding expensive currency conversions.
As well as helping us expand our reach in the United States, your donation will go directly towards improving the lives of children in Gujarat. With £200, we could fully educate 150 girls in topics sorely lacking in schools: equal rights, child marriage, wenlido self-defence and issues affecting pubescent girls. Together, we can build a more equal and tolerant society.
Of course, the money does not just have to come from you. You could set up a fundraiser profile with GlobalGiving UK and link it to Shaishav. Fundraising does not have to be a chore or require running a marathon; let us suggest holding a Gujarati-themed charity meal for your friends and family!
Thank you for your generous help. Please let us know of any other ways in which you would like to hear from us.
GlobalGiving evaluators Dan Sheridan and Hannah Sainsbury visited Shaishav in August and have written the following blog about our work...
Hannah Sainsbury and I have just finished our visit to the Bhavnagar headquarters of Shaishav on our whirlwind trip around Maharashtra and Gujarat. Shaishav was our third project to visit around this part of India as part of our work with GlobalGiving UK.
Shaishav’s aim to help kids from poorer backgrounds help themselves by educating them about their own rights as children and providing them with the support needed to succeed throughout life has been incredibly successful so far. This confidence and responsibility is installed through their youth groups, Balsena and Tarunsena, which the children take charge of with as little interference from Shaishav as possible. The impact of this is incredible to see as children as young as six debate with others over the organization’s policies. These rules and regulations are often more innovative than anything that I could have come up with, such as the membership fee which has been fractionally raised for all so as to allow children unable to afford it to join.
One of the first things we were shown was a Balsena council meeting in which representatives of each of the 52 Balsena groups dotted around the city, came together to discuss and debate current and future policies. This was an excellent showcase of the confidence these kids now have and of the respect they show for one another, as all the arguments were listened to before being decided upon by the Council. Our guide for the day was beaming with pride as she translated for us the arguments over the proposed increase in the amount that can be deposited in the Balsena bank.
The children wore their pink Balsena scarves with as much pride, each group having their own individual scarves with their group names emblazoned upon them. The kids warmly told us how they were learning plenty of new skills that would help them later on in life, such as computer and leadership skills, before asking Hannah and I some pretty probing questions on how GlobalGiving could help Shaishav and Balsena.
Equally as impressive were the many Tarunsena members we met. They had graduated from the Balsena group and were continuing to help out their communities through activities such as organizing Blasena meetings, social work and campaigning for better child rights. Many of these young adults are juggling their voluntary commitments with their studies, a great reflection of their commitment to Shaishav, their communities and the children they work with.
Throughout our visit, it became clear that the enthusiasm, experience and generosity of the staff are the foundation upon which these confident youngsters are able to excel. Over the years their passionate assistance and commitment has been the cornerstone upon which the remarkable developments within these children and their communities has been able to grow.