The following is a postcard from Neeharika Tummala, GlobalGiving's In-the-Field Representative in India and Bangladesh, about her recent visit to Vacha Charitable Trust.
Although I could not go to the field, I had a fantastic opportunity to meet with the founder and the executive team, but also the four of the young bloods of Vacha who run with implementing several of these programs in their respective geographic blocs.
All of these ladies are from the communities themselves and have gone through the Vacha programs in some way or the other. Even though they couldn’t speak in English, it was remarkable as to how confident, insightful, organized and bold these ladies were. Our group conversation flowed from topic to topic as we talked about various campaigns that they have organized, the response from members in the communities, what they do in the face of pushback, what their vision for the future is and what their views on the effectiveness of Vacha is.
I got to hear stories of the campaigns that they have organized such as inspiring kids to make a film in their community around Garbage and the beach, or organizing a signature based campaign to raise awareness around issues and to fight for change in their community. Another example was raising awareness on the Right to Information Act and how community members can access information, understand their rights and complain to the right channels if they face corruption in things like access to ration of food. When asked as to if they ever face pushback in the community or if they ever get scared, they talked about several instances where sometimes it is tough and they do get pushback, but that they also work extensively with the entire community and they do manage to get that support at the end.
What impressed me is their ability to execute Vacha campaigns with the confidence and skill that any urban MBA graduate would have. The ladies grapple with training kids, raising awareness, outreach, running various campaigns and they seem to do it so effortlessly whereas even running one campaign is a large undertaking for many others. These ladies are also success stories of Vacha and proof that it works! Power on Ladies!
Hurray !! some of our girls have cleared their final school exams with flying colors, they are excited to entre high school and a few their college.They have scored well ranging between 55% to 93% in spite of all the hardships and obstackles they face in their day to day life.
Your support has helped these girls to stay in education last academic year. A new academic year has already started mid June and we are looking to you again for helping these and more girls to continue their education for one more year.
It takes only $ 250/- to keep 10 girls in High school in India. Many girls like Seema and Afrin are excited that they are going to continue their education thanks to your support.One more year in high school means postponement of marriage for most of these girls. Additional social capital and new skills acquired means they can be more productive citizens in future.
GlobalGiving has created this wonderful opportunity where every dollar you donate goes further as they are matching every dollar given by you on June bonus day.
Bonus day is 25 June 2014
Matching begins from June 25 at 12:00:00 PM (EDT) (noon) and will end June 26, 2014 at 11:59:59 (EDT).
There are $200,000 available in matching funds from Microsoft.
Please Donate on this day to maximize your support
Click on the link below to visit our project page to donate and support.
It has been a fun-filled summer for girls here at Vacha. This is the time when schools have vacations for almost two months. Many girls participating in Vacha programmes are migrants, so during the summer vacations, they travel to their villages and spend time with their relatives. Those who remained with us had lot of fun in workshops and special events. One such activity we had was art and craft workshops in schools and communities right after the year-end exams. Girls were in the mood to relax after their hectic exam schedules and these workshops were an enjoyable experience. 110 girls took part in these workshops. Some of them learnt to create ornaments like earrings and hand bracelets using paper, others learnt the art of origami and some girls used their artistic skills to make posters about their rights.
A great opportunity came by our girls where they got to attend a live cricket match of the ‘Indian Premiere League’ cricket series. Cricket is much loved throughout the country and it is no different for our girls. They are not allowed to play out door games after they reach puberty, but they follow the matches on t.v. All the girls were hugely excited when they got to know of this opportunity to attend a live match. This opportunity came by as part of the CSR project of one of the cricket teams – Mumbai Indians. All the participating girls were given team t-shirts, caps, and a bag of cricket-themed goodies. Girls in the bastis are not usually allowed to wear t-shirts, so most of them wore them on their Indian clothes. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them to be inside the stadium and cheer for their favourite cricketers.
Girls from this project have contributed to a collection of stories about their menstruation experiences, titled Puberty, Poverty and Gender – Girls speak about Menstruation. This was released on May 28th, observed as International Day of Action for Women’s Health as well as Menstruation Hygiene Day by organizations around the world.
You will be happy to learn that Vacha has won the Dasra Girl Power Award in the life skills category for 2014 and a prize of Rs. 10 lakh (INR 1 million, USD a bit over 16,000.00). There was an all India competition for the award. Vacha was first short listed and then selected as the finalist for it. The award is for the same work that you are supporting through Global Giving so each one of you, our esteemed donors, have contributed towards our refining and expanding the programme and finally winning an important award for it in India. Out team sincerely thanks you or it.
Republic Day 2014:
As you know Vacha youth bring out their own newsletters twice a year. They collect information, take pictures, conduct interviews and form committees to type and edit the newsletters. In some areas this year they brought out 11th edition of their own newsletter that they themselves produce and sell. The newsletter was released on January 26, the Republic Day. Different communities had different versions and these were released along with public performances by girls such as street play performances, power point presentations, speeches and rallies with messages about girls’ rights. Local elected representatives, teachers, social workers, and their parents and peers attended these public events.
The Women’s Day
A major event that was helped organise by girls at all centres was a Women’s Day event on March 8th. Women across 15 bastis in Mumbai, Thane and Valsad (South Gujarat) were invited to spend a few hours away from their house work, and celebrate themselves through games, songs, and other fun activities. Girls had planned competitions and other activities for their mothers to enjoy on Women’s Day, and had a blast seeing their usually reticent mothers fight with each other to win the prize! Women shared with each other about their hobbies and dreams, and found the space to express themselves.
Exams and Vacation
Every year we used to note a declining number of participants in Vacha classes for 2 months from mid February. They said they had to study for the final exams in early April. This year, wherever possible, we turned Vacha centres in to study spaces. Girls like this as they get some quiet and comfortable space in which to study. Their homes are small and crowded. They also have to perform many domestic chores if they are around. In Vacha centres they have books, dictionaries and a facilitator who can help them with their studies.
The final exams will be followed by a long summer vacation. A number of workshops and other activities are planned for all those who will not be going off to their native villages.
‘How does one say on seeing one’s own tongue after a long long time?’ exclaimed Rehana when asked how did she feel after her major dental surgery? We had mentioned her problem last time. Rehana’s cheek had puffed up and she could not open her mouth fully. She meshed food in to small balls and pushed it in through a gap between her teeth in one place. As a child she had tried to run and hide from a strict family elder and fallen down. She had hurt her mouth and the dentures did not align. The treatment was very painful so she gave up after a while. Her cheek kept puffing up. She could not speak clearly but she was fascinated by Vacha class and kept coming. The Vacha ‘teacher’, the social worker Deepa Pawar, herself from a deprived community, pursued the matter with her and her family and arranged for an important surgery at low rate. She stood by Rehana every moment. The family raised some finance and Vacha contributed too. Your contributions helped. Today Rehana can open her mouth and look at her tongue for the first time in many years. She can take proper nutrition too. She has more confidence now and better self esteem. ‘I am going to be a professional photographer’, she says. And she will certainly emerge as one. Why not?
As we near the end of this phase of our project we sincerely hope you will remain with us always and support us in helping girls acquire skills that will make them active and visible in community leadership and help them emerge as strong productive women citizens.
First of all, please accept our best wishes for Christmas and the New Year. A greeting card is attached showing girls at the end of a craft workshop. Thank you for making them so happy and for contributing to their training in life skills and leadership.
Christmas comes within 6 to 8 weeks of Diwali so Holiday atmosphere picks up again. There are many Christmas parties and church events in Mumbai. End of the year is a big event since the January first is the beginning of the common era that we all follow. There are many lunar calenders for other holidays. During Diwali holidays, besides the health camps, two fairs were held in two communities. The focus was on health and gender with a lot of fun activities. One of the workshops was on simple data collection and small surveys inside their own bastis (slums). They are quite excited about finalizing their questionnaires to collect information. One group will do it on harassment of women and girls in streets and the other on the functioning of ration shops that sell basic essentials like food grains, fuel etc. to the poor at rates subsidized by the govt. These girls are in 14 plus age group.
The good news to share is about Rehana, 18, who had a major problem in eating. Due to a fall some years back her upper and lower jaws totally lost their alignment and her one cheek had lost its shape. After a while the family gave up treatment in a public hospital, possibly due to ill treatment by staff, long distance or plain ignorance. Rehana was also scared of surgery. Some from our team convinced her for its need. One arranged for lower medical costs in a semi private hospital. We have encouraged the family to raise some funds and we will pay the rest from what you have donated to us. We are told the surgery was successful and Rehana will be able eat through mouth after some years. She had been taking only liquids through a straw all these years. She is about to leave hospital and we will be able to share pictures with you next time.
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.