Tamil Nadu had been receiving intense bursts of rain from early November beginning right after Deepavali festival. On November 12-13, the city and its surroundings received 10-15 cm of rain, most of it in an one-hour cloudburst. After that some of our working area slums are affected by the floods. In fact we have started our rehabilitation work in Velachery area after this. But the November month rain was a precursor to the floods of December 1-3, drowned parts of the city. There was darkness at morning, noon and night for three days in Chennai, starting December 1. It was the climax of the devastating rains of November, and the water went everywhere. It was all-consuming and relentless. The rains have broken a 100 year record with one day’s rainfall covering one month’s average.
All our staff members’ houses and personally our house also were flooded, so we could not move to our working areas, we ourselves needed help. December 5th the water started receding and Chennai slowly started limping back and we started our rehabilitation work in all our working areas. Our entire target women and children’s families are affected, that is nearly 10,000 families. Initially we started coordinating with other organizations that were doing relief activities; most of them had no idea of how to distribute the relief materials since they have no contact in the slums. So some group of people collected most of the relief materials by standing on the main road or entrance of the slums. We contacted these organizations and our staff members and Snehidhi adolescent girls association leaders coordinated the relief activities by collaborating with other organizations. We took the relief material to the interior areas of slums and made sure the affected people, particularly women get relief materials. We could able reach 30-35 slums and help nearly 12,000 women particularly our target women to get basic survival materials like food materials, vessels and dress. Our medical camps in collaboration with Hindu Mission Hospitals helped people of 10 slums.
The task was so huge and we do not have enough resources both material and human resource. So even though we wanted to help all the people we could not do and started focusing on our CBOs-Community Based Organization members that is Manushi trade union for domestic workers, Maithri Single women’s association and Snehidhi adolescent girls association. Once we received initial support from Globalgiving, we had meetings with women and adolescent girls and it was decided to spend the money on adolescent girls that is for buying a set of dress, 2 notebooks, pen and pencil, sanitary napkins, a bag and some eatables like biscuits. So we have selected 300 girls the members of Snehidhi association, most of them are daughters from women headed families and distributed the materials to them. The distribution was done in adolescent girls meetings or by house visits.
We have also noticed children are traumatized and consulted psychiatrists and counselors. They said children are suffering from PTSD Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Based on their suggestions we have organized activities like drawing, painting, role play, discussions to help children let out their feelings about the flood and their experiences. Nearly 600 girls participated in these activities. During January Pongal festival, an important harvest festival arrived and we thought it was a good opportunity to help children celebrate and forget about floods. On January 14th we have organized Pongal festival in Ambedkar Nagar, Velacherry, the whole event was organized by the Snehidhi adolescent girls association members. The new dress for 300 girls was distributed prior to Pongal festival, so that they can wear it for Pongal festival. The community hall was decorated and girls and their mothers cooked Pongal (sweet rice) and distributed. An exhibition of their painting and drawings were also organized and people visited it. They have also organized a cultural programme. Children, their parents and other community members enjoyed the whole day celebrating Pongal.
Nearly 900 families living around Adyar and affected by the floods are shifted Ezhilnagar, and given houses by the Tamilnadu Slum Clearance Board. They are happy to have their own solid houses but at the same time worried about their livelihood sources, children’s education. Ezhilnagar is part of Kannagi nagar our working area so we also started working with the shifted families; initially giving relief materials to adolescent girls.
The major loss for the people is their labour, nearly for a month they were out of work. Construction work is completely stopped and that is the major employment providing sector. Street vending also stopped for nearly a month. Other work like domestic also women did not go because they have to organize their homes, collect relief materials that are available only if they are at homes. Another important issue is during the last few years many of the families started enrolling their children in private schools because of the poor quality of education in government schools, in private schools they have to pay monthly fees. In the present condition they may not able to pay the fees. Girl children studying in private schools will become the victims if the family cannot pay the fees and want to withdraw their children. So we are working on solutions to address the livelihood source and children’s school fees. We are discussing with women, children and teachers and other organizations. In the coming months we will be involved in strengthening the livelihood sources of women and find ways to pay the fees for girl children particularly who are in 9th standard and above.
As usual during this disaster, people lost everything and without work it is the women who managed the families, provided food, care to their families. When we visited the slums one more thing we noticed is the way children protected their pets like dogs and cats and keeping it with them, we are not only moved by it but also gained confidence and hope to continue our work to rebuild the lives affected by this natural disaster.
Centre for Women’s Development and Research
Life Skill and Sexuality Education for 1000 girls-India (14480)
Update- November 2015
Last 6 months is an important period for us. The 10th and 12th standard board examinations results were announced and all the girls who attended our supplementary classed passed the exam. We were busy in helping them finding college admissions or skill training programmes. We were also continuing our life skill and sexuality programme during holidays and weekends.
48 girls have passed their 10th examinations and 34 girls passed their 12th standard examinations in our rural area. For the first time 11 girls started going to college. This is huge step forward for them and for us. The work we have been doing with the adolescent girls and their parents started paying results. The major problem we faced was all the girls have scored below 1000 for 1200 marks, it created some hardships to get admission in government colleges where the annual fees is less than Rupees 10,000. Since they got admission in private colleges they have to pay the fees of Rs.30000-45000 it is a huge amount for them. Usually parent spend money on girls only for wedding dowry. Somehow 11 girls could able to pay their first years fees with their family savings or loans, in the coming years it was difficult for them. We could able to get support to pay full fees for 3 girls out of that 2 girls joined for B.Com course and 1 in Pharmacy course. For rest of the girls we are providing a stipend of Rs.500 per month for their travel and other expenses. We are also exploring the possibilities of getting bank loans so that they can pay their fees in the coming years. Another thing we want to do is strengthening our supplementary education programme and help the girls score more marks in the 12th grade examinations. We are really happy parents are willing to invest on girl children’s education.
We are also continuing our computer skill training programmes and 85 girls benefitted from this. Still we do not have broadband connections in the village so we could not use it fully. Recently our chief minister announced that the state government will provide free internet though the government cable network. If that happened that would help the girls. They can learn both academic subject and general knowledge.
When we right this report the Snehidhi adolescent girls association members are involved in 16days activism to eliminate violence against women. We have organized one week training programme on street play, fold dance and songs. They developed their own script on women’s rights and violence against women. 22 girls participated in that training. They have been organizing cultural programmes in the villages and slums to educate the public about women’s rights and violence against women.
We have organized several parents meeting particularly women’s meetings. In addition to that our field staff also met parents of 12th grade passed girls individually to motivate them to send their children to colleges. Earlier they usually will not send their daughters to college saying that the colleges are far away. Now they are sending even to distant places and the girls stay in the hostel. Most of the girls go to Pondicherry and Tindivanam and travel 2 hours up and down to go to colleges. Parents particularly mother support their daughters education it is a huge shift and this gives us lot of hope and confidence to continue our work with girls and mothers.
Ms.Chevanthi, 1st Year B.Com
Chevanthi is 18 years old and this year joined for 1st year B.Com course. She has been a Snehidhi member for the last 6 years. Her father and mother both are agricultural workers. During dry season her father goes to nearby city or town and work in construction; So their income is not steady, She has a brother studying in 10th standard. She is calm person and good student. She has been attending all our trainings like life skill sexuality education and leadership skills. She is also an active participant in our dance and song trainings. She says that only helped her to build her confidence and now goes to college. She shared how she could able to handle the ragging during the initial days in the college. There is no need to say that she is the first graduate student from family. In India only 10% of students goes to college, in that only 3-4% of girls only go to college and most of them are from the cities. She joined for B.Com(Bachlor or commerce) in Rajeswari College, Bommayapalayam, Pondicherry, that is 45 kilometers away from her village. She travels by bus every day to go to college. This year onwards we are providing Rs.500 per month for her college studies. She has to spend Rs.25000 to 30000 every year; it is really difficult for them. 1st year they could able get loans and spent all their savings for her college studies. She has been looking for scholarships we are also helping in this regard. We are really happy to see a Snehidhi member going to college. This would change her and her family’s life in a big way.
Scholarship Cheque is given to Ms.Divya, Her mother is a single woman
Last 3 months our focus was more on supplementary education support for 10th and 12th standard girl students. It was board examination time for 10th and 12th standard students and final examinations for other students; mostly we were involved in supplementary educations like tuition classes and also organizing workshops to build their confidence to face examinations. This year we have organized tuition classes in the schools itself that helped us to reach out to more girls. Snehidhi-Adolescent girls group members also organized International women’s day in the villages and slums and educated public about women’s and girls’ children’s rights.
Life skill Sexuality and supplementary Education: We have organized tuition classed during weekends in 3 schools and nearly 280 girls benefitted from this programme. The schools teachers also involved in this programme, it is also easy for the girls to attend these classes because it is organized in their schools. So in the coming years we wish to continue this programme from the beginning of the academic year particularly for English, Science and Mathematics subjects. We have also organized 3 study smart workshops to build the confidence of the girls to face the board examinations, 116 girls participated in these workshops. From the coming year onwards we are going to initiate G2G-Girls to Graduates programme that is to support higher secondary class passed girls to continue their university graduation. In this regard we had organized parents meeting and also Snehidhi adolescent girls’ association meetings, to explain the programme and also to identify the potential girl students. By April 10th both 12th and 10th standard board examinations were over, after that we had organized folk arts training programmes and career guidance programme for girls. 65 girls participated in these programmes. In addition to the supplementary education classes we were also continuing our life skill and sexuality education programme, 98 girls benefitted from this programme. We have also organized a cancer awareness programme for girls and mothers in Chennai city, this programme was organized in collaboration with Loyola colleges social work students and Pink foundation Chennai. Since there are only 2 computers in the village and 2 in the slum area only 36 girls learned computer skills. We have also used DVDs in the supplementary education programme for high school girls.
We are renovating our training centre in Panaiyur village that is changing the thatch roof to concrete roof. This would help us to extend our activities further like we can add more computers, can have residential programmes for small group of girls. In general it is an important period for us, we have made preparatory work for the G2G programme that will be launched once the Higher secondary and high school board examinations come out. We are happy that all most all the girls in our working area are continuing their education, earlier they discontinue once they reach puberty or when they fail in a class or after 10th standard because there is no higher secondary schools or college nearby. Now parents are willing to send their girl children to distant places and continue their education by staying in hostels.