Warm greetings from Vacha Team. Once again we thank you for your continued support to our project with girls. As we built resources we began to let boys also to have access to some of them. They too are deprived children but they are privileged over girls in matters of nutrition, education and mobility. We now have a gender sensitisation programme for them and they participate enthusiastically to support their sisters at home.
We have some happy news to share with you. One new programme we have started recently is a library for youth (age group 10 to 18) in Golavli, a former village now included in Kalyan- Dombivli Municipal Corporation. The area now has some slums where migrants from poor and backward areas in the country live. It has books in Marathi, Hindi and English for children and teenagers. Our programme participants come from homes that do not have a reading tradition. Often the parents are semiliterates and also too overworked to have energy to read books. They cannot afford to buy books and not all get even a newspaper. But, within a month, the library picked up and now over 150 kids visit it to borrow books or to attend library events like reading out, dramatisation from books, quizzes etc. Some students from a neighbouring school rush in to catch up with a book even in the short school recess. We had found out that it is compulsory for even schools for the poor to have a library but the teachers do not issue books out of fear that children may damage them in some way and the teachers would have to pay a fine. They also do not have the vision to organise library events and help youth explore the wonderful world or books. We will expand the programme gradually.
Once again we thank you for all that you have done for us.
It gives Team Vacha great pleasure to share pictures from a training centre cum coordination office with you. Several of you have contributed for getting a small place of its own after 30 years of existence. Space in Mumbai is highly expensive and rents are sky high and never is the tenancy on long term basis now. A permanent space, however small, was needed for Vacha to survive. We had tried very hard to collect funds to buy space and had done locally. However, in the last phase, it was through contributions from GlobalGiving platform that made it possible to get this place. So a very big Thank You to all of you and to GlobalGiving. I am sharing a couple of pictures from a girls’ training. We will be putting up pictures from other parts of this 400 sq. ft. Place as they become more functional.
Vacha coordinates a programme of Learning Community of Girls supported by and planned with EMpower Foundation. Seven NGOs working in poor neighbourhoods participate in a project of empowering girls through leadership skills and skills in locating issues affecting their lives, planning, budget making, monitoring etc. and encourage them to own and execute the project themselves. They have carried out such projects at local level and share strategies and outcomes. This year they conducted a survey of girls experiences on issues of mobility i.e. access to public playgrounds, Public toilets and Public stands for newspaper reading, a special Mumbai feature in poor areas. The findings revealed threats and demeaning experiences. The survey was titled The Time Is Now with demands through advocacy. Girls from all centres including Vacha called a press conference to release the survey report and a charter of demands on April 12 at a Press Club. The press conference was covered by 10 daily newspapers and 3 TV channels. It is going to various authorities.
We continue to work with adolescent girls from deprived communities and thanks again for your regular support. Do visit our website www.vacha.org.in from time to time.
On February 21 we went to a different kind of area to hold a health and gender fair in a village in Shahpur Taluka of Thane district adjacent to Mumbai. Many do not relies that the island of Mumbai and its extension are very close to a forest, even though leopards get in to factories, schools and residential areas. They do not encroach, it is humans who have encroached in to their areas as the city expands. Tribals traditionally live in forest areas. Many still do in Thane district where the area is accessed from Mumbai through a network of railway and buses. One reaches Shahpur by going to Asangaon by a local train and then take a bus to Shahpur, the biggest town in the Taluka. We hired a large vehicle to carry the fair material. The only interventions made to spread education here have been residential aashram shallas, primary schools originally started by Gandhians and now supported by the govt. Different tribes often live in the same area. Some are more advanced because of land ownership or earlier access to education through missionaries and social welfare groups. We went to Kharade, a pada,a tiny hamlet. We were invited by Snehal Naik, a social worker who had once worked with Vacha and though not a tribal herself she and her family had always lived in another tribal area. Girls and boys in 8 to 16 year age group came from 6 schools in a cluster of villages. 269 girls and 92 boys in all attended the fair. Stalls were organized accordingly. Vacha team carried all the decorations and games for the fair.
Nothing like a fair had happened there before this event. Not much of any other exciting learning activities either. Even older children wanted to play games meant of younger ones and all kept coming again and again for the activities. Stalls included playing out what they wanted to be when they grew up by using several kinds of dresses professional wore, Snakes and Ladder to watch out for opportunities and pitfall, pins and balls in which they threw out any social evil they wanted. Girls usually wanted to eradicate gender based inequality and sexual assault. Many boys also wanted to wipeout sexual harassment. However, in an introduction to a game of needle and thread and nails and hammer, the boys put thread through a needle and girls hammered nails through a piece of wood to practice reversed roles. There were many such games planned that related to nutrition (girls get less of meat and portion) and helped out in agricultural operations despite participating in all household chores but boys got time to go out and play. A lot of such things were perceived, often the first time. Naik and her colleagues has a lot of follow work cut out for them. Despite covering a distance of over 90 miles one way on very bad and dusty roads it was a very fulfilling experience for us and we hope to remain in touch with Snehal and the organizations she works with in tribal areas. This fair was on behalf of Karve Institute of Social Service, Pune. In case some of the readers are not aware of Karve was a pioneering leader supporting and imparting women’s education and also fighting ban on widow remarriage among upper castes in 19th and early 20th centuries.
Dear friends, Hello, As you know your donations to Vacha has helped us reach tens thousands of poor adolescent girls living in slums of Mumbai and its outskirts. The girls suffer only due to poverty but also because of the huge son preference and orthodox traditions controlling girls’ mobility, education, early marriage and lack of choice in decision making. All girls in Vacha programme complete 12 years of schooling and many go for post 12th courses including college programmes. We have filed some of the success stories of girls becoming pharmacist, lawyer, and doctor and succeeding in field like stock exchange fellowship, National Day parade, fashion design and of air craft hospitality. We will be sending more stories. These girls would not have been successfully without our programme of training in soft and hard skills and leading community action. They have worked on preventing child marriage, demanding adequate number of clean public toilets (their homes do not have attached bathroom/toilet) and creating safe spaces for women and girls. Your donations have hugely contributed to our programmes. Vacha team, therefore, appeals to you to donate generously on GivingTuesday for continuing and expanding our work. Sincerely, Sonal Shukla
As you know Vacha encourages participants in our programme of girls empowerment to own the project. That is why presentation by girls themselves at local and national seminars and local meetings are important to us. It adds to their self confidence and is part of their leadership program. A seminar on Marginalised Adolescent Girls’ Agency in Empowerment Strategies and Models was held last month in Mumbai in which social workers and girls from different parts of India participated. Girls had their own space separate as well as within the main presentations.
The girls were asked to think of the topic in context of their family, their community/ neighbourhood and the NGO working with them. Girls talked of restrictions to mobility, lack of understanding of and receptivity to girls’ perceptions by elders. They shared their experience of having to always compromise, being subjected to abusive language and lack of appreciation from family and imposition of orthodox and outdated customs and traditions. They felt they should work on themselves for being more communicative and courageous and to use tactics and also strategise to be able to negotiate with elders and others in power. They expected NGOs to deal with families and communities to get a better deal for girls.
Among the stories we have shared is one about Sabah, a past graduate of Vacha’s programme who is from a conservative family. The Hindus of various castes who have also moved to Mumbai in search of livelihood from Hindi belt in North also tend to be very conservative and women maintain purdah/veil in its sari version. Sabah gets along with her peers in both communities. Recently a major foundation chose her story and created an oversized poster to emphasise need for girls’ empowerment. That poster is part of the report.
It was towards the end of 2011 that the GlobalGiving began to help us collect donations from individuals to assure our work of imparting hard and soft skills to girls from poor families continues. Your contributions go a long way in supporting our work. We appeal to your generosity to donate to us on Giving Tuesday so that today’s girls emerge as strong women who will not be subjected to violence and discrimination. Our sincere thanks for the support.
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