Girls enjoying games at Fair
The Diwali festival was in the middle of November and so schools had a 3 week Diwali/winter vacation during the month. This was an opportunity to have fun filled activities and workshops. Regular sessions in English, library, general knowledge and computer use continued. Many girls are comfortable using computers and that makes their mothers happy and proud. The skill will help girls work on their own publication in form of leaflets and newsletters in January. Added is another empowering skill in form of photography for a relatively new group in Pisavli near Kalyan in Thane district. A 2 day workshop in photography was held. It was originally a village that is now under the impact of urbanization. The girls had never used a camera before. After a workshop they have learnt to take pictures of people and objects of their own choice instead of being only objects of a photograph. With basic knowledge and techniques of photography, they are encouraged tell their stories of daily life through their own pictures, in short to document it.
The girls under this project also attended a 1 day workshop on gender to contextualize their daily experiences of discrimination and control of their mobility etc. Some of them shared their perceptions and feelings about this situation, which were discussed by the group. It seemed the girls do feel strengthened by being together and doing activities collectively.
A hundred girls attended a health camp where their blood samples were tested for identifying their blood group, hemoglobin count and body mass index. This is important for adolescent girls, most of whom are denied necessary nutritious food because of traditional mindsets. This, coupled with heavy household chores, leads to a lot of girls and young women becoming anemic and having a low body weight. A session on low priced healthy food was arranged for girls and young mothers. However, it must be admitted that girls have very limited choice in selecting what to eat due to male centric household menus and son preference for good food.
An Educational Fair was held for about 150 girls in Pisavli, where there were gender and health based games and activities. This was a good way to expose a large number of adolescent girls to the issues of gender. It was also a way of creating a space in the community which was meant only for girls, and where they would be able to just play without inhibitions. Their amazement and joy at having been invited to such a place was infectious. It was a task to close the Fair and pack up for the day that evening!
In Netivali community, girls participated in an Anti-Superstition workshop and saw how it is that self-acclaimed religious gurus use sleight of hand to perform ‘miracles’ and cheat them. The belief in superstitions is a huge problem in many communities in India. These beliefs take on religious significance to the extent that many people refuse to go to a qualified doctor and instead rely on superstitious practices to cure themselves. It was important to expose the younger generation to the deceit and irrationality involved in these practices.
Girls in Malwani community participated in a puppet making workshop and also learnt to use the medium of puppets to express themselves. These girls being from conservative Muslim families are not allowed to take part in other self expression activities such as dance or theatre which require them to perform in public. Therefore, puppets are a good way for them to express publicly while being behind the curtains, literally, as puppetiers.
Participating girls in all three communities plan to use these skills to make public presentations to their community members based on their thoughts on various issues of girls and of the larger society.
Girls give blood samples at Health Camp
Girls learning photography
Girls with their puppets