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Projects


Ambedkar Nagar, Jaipur

Intro

Ambedkar Nagar is a slum located in Jaipur, India, in the state of Rajasthan, consisting of narrow streets alongside the railway tracks. Being marked as a slum there are no basic facilities like electricity, a drainage system, a proper place for children to play, a health center, a community center etc. Roughly 3,600 people live in the area, with most of the families living in small houses consisting of 1 – 2 narrow rooms, where as many as 10 to 12 people live together. Most of the people in Ambedkar Nagar have no or only basic formal education; they mostly do physically challenging, low-skilled work such as pulling goods carts, rickshaw pulling, sweeping or auto rickshaw driving. Being more or less illiterate themselves, they are oftentimes unaware of the importance of education and hardly give any proper attention to their children’s education. This may also be the case, because they don’t have sufficient time to take care of their offspring out of the compulsion of the work they do. Thus, a large majority of the children and adolescents are illiterate, which debars them from getting decent jobs, to sustain themselves and their future families.

The mother - as the first teacher of the child – plays an important role in the education of her children. However, this most important person of the household is oftentimes also the most suppressed, with virtually no say in what goes on in her own life or in that of her children. A lot of women suffer from a lack of confidence, and very low self-esteem due to the set of values they have been brought up with, where women usually are not valued as an individual. An effective way to bring about change in the life of a family is to make its women stronger, more aware and financially independent. Therefore the primary focus of our activities in Ambedkar Nagar is women empowerment alongside children’s education, so that long lasting and sustainable change can be created.

Activities

Women Empowerment "Learning & Earning"

Providing vocational training and enabling economic empowerment is one of the key concerns of the project at the Ambedkar Nagar slum area; to achieve this, the following stepwise initiatives were taken:
  1. Initial meeting with the head of each family to seek permission for the women to join activities outside their homes.
  2. Continuous family visits to talk to the women and their husbands to motivate them to learn and earn for their families and themselves.
  3. A series of group meetings with the participating women, providing them with a platform, where they can discuss freely and openly any issues they might have at their homes / in their lives.
  4. Advocacy sessions where we were talking with the women about topics such as reproductive health, hygiene, bank accounts. These sessions provided them with the rare opportunity to sit and think together about their common concerns and about ways to address them.
  5. Training sessions to teach the women the basics of stitching and how to tailor different Indian outfits e.g. salwar kameez.

After an initial training period of 2 months the women started earning money, getting orders from within their community, via Saarthak / Idex / Idex volunteers or from small local companies. Today they are able to contribute to the household income in a way that is substantial to their families, earning 500 – 1,200 RS (appr. 11 – 27 US $) per month.


The next step will be to help the women with opening bank accounts, ensuring their salary will be used for the benefit of their and their families’ needs, instead of the money being spent by and for their husbands. Moreover, they will start saving for their own sewing machines, so that they are independent from using the machine which is provided by SAARTHAK at the resource center.

Adolescent Girl's Activities

The objective of the adolescent group is to build awareness for a wide range of issues, to discuss common problems, and to support the young girls in finding solutions for these.
Fourteen to eighteen girls ranging from age 14 – 19 are currently part of the group, some of them being scholarship holders of our program. The following topics, among others, were discussed:
  1. Reproductive health
  2. Hygiene and sanitation
  3. Early marriage and its consequences
  4. Early childbirth and its consequences
  5. Regular health check-ups were conducted, showing that the majority of the girls is anemic – unfortunately an all-too-common issue among women and girls in India.
Girls / women living in slum areas are usually not accustomed to the concept of leisure time, as they are expected to help their families with the household duties, when not at school or at work. Therefore, we also conducted some fun activities like watching a movie or having a picnic in the park.

Another aspect of the women empowerment / adolescent girls initiatives are English and computer classes. Both of these are being taught to the women by Idex volunteers at the resource center in Ambedkar Nagar. The mere presence of international volunteers and the fact, that people with an educated background and with a perceived high-status care about them, already helps in building confidence among the women and gives credence and positive awareness to our activities in the community.

Scholarships for children

Raj Mansh Public School Children at end of term meeting Shivani, 13 yrs. proudly
showing her reports (she of the most disciplined and engaged students)

The scholarships and the supporting activities are at the center of our social development initiatives, and we took great care to ensure that the children stay motivated throughout the school year and receive the support they need from their teachers and families e.g. by regular family visits or by holding regular meetings with the teachers.

All the school kids are provided transportation, necessary books, stationeries, shoes, and school uniforms as well as other clothes or medical care if required. Coming mostly from illiterate families, the children do usually not receive support with their homework and studies within their families (even if their parents are generally supportive), therefore we started tutoring classes teaching Math, Science and English, which are the most common subjects that the children struggle with.

The progress of the children is monitored periodically and meetings with the teachers are held, to discuss each child and its individual needs.

The daily ride to the school, wearing school uniforms and studying alongside wealthier children was a source of insecurity for the children, when we first started the project. After an initial phase where the children had to adjust to the new environment, they all gained a lot of confidence and are now – at the end of the term – not shy to compete and interact with children with a more settled background. This is also reflected in the awards, some of the children won this term at the yearly school competitions for their athletic or handicraft skills.

“Success is not measured by the heights one attains, but by the obstacles overcome in attaining them.” Booker T. Washington

Some teachers had constraints when the kids first started coming to the private school, and were skeptical, if the slum children would be able to keep up with the rest of the kids. These doubts have been dispelled in the meantime, and the teachers are impressed by the children’s zeal, discipline and enthusiasm to study!

All the selected and enrolled 20 school kids are well settled and attending school regularly except one boy, who experienced massive problems at home – namely with his aggressive father – which could not be solved. That leaves 19 of the initial 20 children at school, which is an exceptionally positive result!


Saarthak Gallery