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Mar 4, 2013

Community Change through Campaigning, Collaborating and Commemorating

Balsena members celebrate 10 years of work
Balsena members celebrate 10 years of work

Throughout January and December, Shaishav staff and youth collective members of Tarunsena trained themselves to perform street theater as a tool to teach small communities throughout Bhavnagar about the Right to Education Act (RTE) and the purpose of School Management Committees to ensure proper, efficient implementation of the act and provide quality education to the children. The Right to Education is India’s declaration of quality education as a fundamental right for the first time in Indian constitutional history. Through 75 street theatre performances in over 50 communities in the city of Bhavnagar, Shaishav, Balsena and Tarunsena teams roused audiences to engage with questions like: “The RTE tells us that every school should have a mid-day meal, gender specific toilet facilities, and qualified teachers promoting quality education. Is this happening in your school?” Over 10,000 citizens, adults and children, engaged with these performances. The actors urged parents to take an active role in their child’s School Management Committee to ensure these fundamental rights are being met.

In addition to community based performances, Shaishav hosted a state level event on January 17th, 18th and 19th that incorporated the participation of 80 child and adult representatives of 13 different NGOs throughout Gujarat. The event was held to develop an action plan that addresses the involvement of youth in governance which was developed by each participating organization. Throughout the three days, participants attended various sessions on what it takes to work collaboratively and how adults can help youth in working together for their goals. The event was a great networking opportunity for like-minded organizations as well as a time to fully develop a child participation model to implement in their organizations.

Just a few days after the consultation, Shaishav held the 10th annual celebration of Balsena, the children’s collective. The event started with a rally through one of the main streets in Bhavnagar and led to Shamaldas college campus where children started the ceremonies with dancing, snacks and flag raising. Children spent the morning learning about safety and protection from Shaishav staff and Tarunsena youth. Safety and protection has become a significant topic in light of the Delhi rape case in December 2012. In the afternoon, Balsena members displayed the collective’s history and the children got to engage with a guest speaker on her journey as a former national volleyball player who is now an amputee and continues to pursue life to the fullest as she preps to climb Mt. Everest this spring. The parents of active Balsena and Tarunsena members were felicitated for supporting their children in their journey of empowerment. The day was full of infectious inspiration and a sense of solidarity as members, parents, and Shaishav staff celebrated the hard work the collective has accomplished in the last year.

Although Shaishav functions as a direct service provider through programs like Balsena and Tarunsena, the organization has been working to establish itself as a resource and training support for like-minded organizations and individuals since 2008. In January, Shaishav had the long awaited opportunity to present its Child Rights and Resource Training Center to the public as the future home of exceptional training in child rights, participation, and community action through youth leadership. The inauguration of the building was attended by important community leaders and supporters as well as Balsena and Tarunsena youth. Attendees got to celebrate the beginning of a new chapter for Shaishav.  

Throughout all the events, Shaishav has been continuously appreciative of the funding it has received to make its efforts possible. As an engaged follower and a funder, we send you our utmost gratitude in continuing the work that Shaishav believes to be most essential in furthering the capacity of youth to make community wide change through the development of themselves and their peers. 

Shaishav staff teach communities about the RTE Act
Shaishav staff teach communities about the RTE Act
Children leading a State Consultation workshop
Children leading a State Consultation workshop
Former Presideent Daksha gives chief guest gift
Former Presideent Daksha gives chief guest gift
Dec 3, 2012

New Centre and Balsena Election

Balsena Election Candidates
Balsena Election Candidates

The last few weeks have seen a very exciting development. After many months of working with a large number of donors, government officials and many other people, we have finally secured a new building to house our work. This new building will hold all of Shaishav’s office based operations, but most importantly, it will allow our Child Rights Training and Resource Centre (CRTRC) to develop into the state-wide source of experience, knowledge and materials that we had envisaged.

The CRTRC was originally created in 2009, and has already been very successful. The centre has supported and strengthened Shaishav’s many educational programmes, and enabled us to develop and expand the collective capacities of our staff and beneficiaries, as well as those of other organisations.

However, despite these achievements, the CRTRC has been limited by a lack of dedicated space in which it can conduct its operations. It has needed space in which it can conduct its training workshops, carry out its advocacy and networking roles, and better cooperate with other Shaishav programmes. It is for these reasons that the purchase of a new building was so necessary. The building will provide Shaishav with a large multi-purpose hall, an administrative wing, small catering facilities, audio/visual learning resources and a large library and resource centre. There is also a large outdoor space that can be used for various programmes.

More space will provide many benefits, both for the children and the greater community. We will be able to provide a greater level of safety and security to children in an environment without the risk of injury. We will also be able to offer a much higher level of stability to many of our programmes, providing us with a permanently available space for events, rather than having to continuously search for something suitable on the dates that we need it. Finally, the new building will allow Shaishav to develop and expand on our work surrounding child rights and participation, free from the constraints of our current small office. We will be able to offer training sessions for large groups of people of over 100 or more, whereas currently we can only work with about 30 people at a time. Our aim is to hold large residential training workshops in the future. We will be inaugurating the new building on 26th January 2013.

In other news, Balsena held it’s Presidential election on 30th September, in which all members of the Balsena Council participated. Members discussed the strengths of each of the seven candidates and voted based on a variety of different criteria including speaking skills, Hindi and English language knowledge, ability to give and receive training, ability to attend events outside of Bhavnagar and whether they can spare time for these responsibilities. Voting was undertaken using the weighted average ranking system.

Gender equality is fully ingrained into Balsena and there is always a gender balance in Balsena’s leaders. If the President is a girl then the Vice-President must be a boy and vice-versa. Of Balsena’s ten Presidents so far, eight have been girls. This year Drashti won the election and became President and Pankaj became Vice-President.

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Sep 4, 2012

Updates from Shaishav

Children participating in our computer courses
Children participating in our computer courses

Dear Friends and Supporters,

The last few months have been an exciting time for us. Much of June was spent going through an extensive evaluation of our work by Comic Relief UK, part of an agreement for future funding. Shaishav received a very positive report from this evaluation and we hope that this will lead to significant new support from Comic Relief, enabling us to bring our programmes to an ever greater number of children. Secondly, after many months of planning and issues, we have finally managed to secure an agreement to purchase a large new building, big enough to hold all of our offices and provide a large, multipurpose hall in which we can hold many of our activities with children and adults. This enable us to expand the scope of many of our programmes, and will provide a major improvement in stability, putting an end to the last minute changes in venues that we often experience.

Our regular activities are proceeding well. During the last 3 months, 220 children have participated in 6 Balmela's (children's fairs) where they learnt about pollution, water use and the water cycle. In addition, 130 children participated in training workshops on goal setting and decision making, and 47 children participated in 2-day Leadership Camps. We held the Annual Programme for the Savings Bank in this quarter, which was attended by130 children. Finally, Drashti, one of our most active Balsena members, attended national level conferences in Bhopal and Ahmedabad on global warming and the environment. Our community programmes have also been very successful. We have enrolled over 800 children into school in this period. We have also seen over 100 children completing the computer courses run in our Area Resource Centres.

Though the main focus of our work is on children, we also work with adults in these same underprivileged communities. During this period we have held 49 street meetings with local adults, and 8 meeting exclusively for members of Lok Samarthan Manch, our people's support forum. These meetings focused on the topics of school enrollment and the Right to Education Act, CHILDLINE, health and local issues. Finally, we have held 6 community Samelans, in which people can come to get advice and assistance from Shaishav staff and expert resource persons. These samelans were attended by almost 400 adults, and have provided information on health through the support of a local doctor, school enrolment, and governments schemes and benefits that local people can utilise. 

A relatively new addition to our programmes has been the Bhavnagar segment of CHILDLINE 1098, a nationwide child helpline supported by the Indian government. Though it was only innaugurated in Bhavnagar a few months ago, we have already seen good take up, and have processed 35 cases in the past 3 months. This has included a state-wide search for a missing girl, who was returned to her mother after two and a half months, and the case of a young boy who was so violent that his parents were tying him up in ropes. Once Shaishav heard of this case, they met with the boy and discovered that he was suffering from serious mental problems. After talking with his parents we arranged for him to be enrolled in a special-needs school, where he is receiving the treatment he needs.

With your support we will continue to expand our work, and make a real difference to the lives of children in Bhavnagar.

Environmental exhibition
Environmental exhibition
Children participate in Leadership Camp activities
Children participate in Leadership Camp activities
Children receive training from a Tarunsena member
Children receive training from a Tarunsena member

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