Empower them to say NO! #GivingTuesday#India

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The recent incidents of sexual molestation in Bengaluru have once again brought to fore the reality of gender biaises and the stranglehold of patriarchal values in across society.

Molestation, rapes and all form of sexual abuse are a power game wherein the perpetrator cannot accept the victim deviating from accepted norms. True there are some aberrations that defy all explanations the most deafening being the rape of children and babies!

Sexual abuse of children in often committed by members or someone close to the family. These are the ones that  go unreported as they touch upon the honour of the family and what is terrible the code of silence is often imposed not by a male, but a female member of the family.

Patriarchy decreed the daughter would be the repository of the family’s honour. Why not the son? The son can do no wrong; this is a notion prevalent  across the board, a sentiment aptly defined in the words of a leading politician: boys will be boys.

Every time there is a rape or molestation case civil society wakes up and, post a few candle lit marches and fiery speeches, sinks back into silence. What is always sought is the hanging of the perp as if that act alone would solve all issues.

Experience has shown that this is not the case as rapes and abuse continue with impunity. Recently a tailor, father of five was arrested for having molested hundreds of girls!

We need to protect our children as boys too suffer abuse. The statistics on chid abuse are terrifying. One child abused is one too many!

Long term solutions are not the need of the hour. Children cannot wait. What we are dealing with is age old mindsets that will not vanish overnight. Patriarchy is too deed rooted. The only immediate solution is to inform children about abuse and empower to say NO, a no so loud that it cannot be ignored. It all begins with the notion of ‘good’ touch and ‘bad’ touch.

This is something we do at Project WHY at an early age. Our effort is to also lend a patient and understanding year to every child.

Regular workshops for adolescent are conduced regularly in order to address all the questions that can never be asked within the  four walls of a patriarchal home.

It is not easy to grow up in a slum. Though the family is uber traditional, the environment is quite different. Television has invaded the home and the ubiquitous smart phone had reached every hand each claiming its space, its supremacy. Think of the child, the adolescent, the teenager having to navigate in between these two!

We plan to have workshops on cyber crime soon.

We do our best to help children grow into responsible adults but above all we strive to give them a voice!

Zero-teacher, single-teacher… #GivingTuesday#India

 

child from our Kalka temple outreach
child from our Kalka Temple outreach

Whether born in a mansion or a slum, or even on the street, every child born in India has the Right to  Quality Education, a right guaranteed by the Constitution. Sadly nothing is further from reality.

A recent article entitled ‘Lessons in Negligence‘ is a stark reminder of what is happening on the ground. The article is about education in Madhya Pradesh, but the reality is the same across the land.

The article introduces us to the zero-teacher and one-teacher school. A zero teacher school is a school that has NO qualified teacher and in this state there are 4,472 zero-teacher schools and 17,649 schools with just one teacher. The ‘guest teachers’ who are barely qualified run the zero-teacher schools. In the one-teacher option, a single teacher looks after 8 classes!

A school has a flat screen TV that has never been used! There is no electricity as bills have not been paid; sports equipment lies unused as there are no playgrounds. The article also mentions the existence of a locked school. The date on the board is 11/12/15. Seems nothing happened post that date: a school frozen in time. In such conditions it is not surprising that 40 per cent of students of class 2 cannot even identify the alphabet, while 65 per cent of students in class 5 cannot read textbooks meant for class 2.

This situation is not contained to Madhya Pradesh. Many Project WHY students came to us with similar problems but a little hand holding was all that was needed to make up for lost time.

Education is not centre stage. Children are rarely centre stage. One wonders why. And yet everyone knows that education alone can transform society for the better.

Children cannot wait. In no time, it is too late for them. This is one fact that we at Project WHY know and believe and that is why we have never shied away from any challenge. Whenever we come across children in need we answer the call and give it our best. That is how the Kalka Temple was set up. Today, over 35 children study there after school. Had we not done so, the likelihood of these children becoming beggars was far too real. As we go along, we will elaborate a road map for them based on their ability and needs.

Every child deserves the best; at Project WHY we strive to give her just that!

Let it be the year of the child #GivingTuesday#India

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A New Year has dawned. Let it be the year where children are heard. Let it be a year when children find their voices. Let it be a year when each one of us walks that little extra step for a child in need.

Recently Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi  launched two initiatives: “Laureates and Leaders for Children” and “100 Million for 100 Million”. The later aims at bringing 100 million privileged children to fight for the rights of 100 million deprived children. A laudable effort that resonates with what we at Project WHY believe.

In our small way we initiated a similar effort bringing together Project WHY children and CSKM children in an effort to ignite compassion in young hearts. And we are proud to say that this happened and are eagerly looking forward to the bonds strengthening. We know they will.

Do the girls in the picture below look any different from each other and yet they belong to two entirely different worlds, or so some would like us to believe.

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But this is a small step. We must not forget that in India children are trafficked and that child labour is rampant even in front of our eyes. So let us resolve not to remain mute and to do something!

Let 2017 be the year of the child!

 

 

Remembering Manu #GivingTuesday#India

manu3For the past 6 years, come January and my thoughts go to Manu who left us all lost and bewildered on a cold morning in January 2011. I must admit that on that fateful day my feet faltered and I was close to giving up. You see Manu had been the one who showed me the way and thawed my frozen heart. I had been rudderless after the death of my parents and it is Manu who gave me back not only the will to live but to do something to honour their memory.

How can you define the relationship between a ‘well-to-do’ well past middle age woman and a beggar. It would take volumes or just one simple word: love. Yes Manu redefined the word love and gave it a whole new meaning.

It was as if he had circled the same path over and over again for years, in extreme heat and bitter cold to ensure that when I passed by he would be there. And when we met if felt like we had both reached our final destination.

It was for Manu that Project WHY was set up in the quaint street where he had been born and where he ‘lived’. The broken, dishevelled, filthy soul riled by one and all waited patiently for that day in May 2000.

The rest is history. Project WHY was set up and Manu cared for.

For a decade our lives were entwined. Manu trusted me implicitly. He also taught me many lessons. Most of important of all that no life is useless. Had there been no Manu, there might have been no Project WHY.

The other lesson Many taught me was to never say die, no matter how bad things are, there is always light at the end of the road if you are willing to walk the one less travelled. In my toughest moments when everything seemed dark and the urge to throw my hands up was overwhelming, seeing him smile would lift the clouds and make the sun shine again.

He was a gentle soul with a quirky sense of humour. We shared many precious moments, dancing and laughing and many meals too! Spending time with him was a blessing, an intense feeling that all was well and one was safe.

I do not know what saints look like; I think Manu was one, a true child of God.

Project WHY has to continue to honour is memory.

Manu remains safe in my heart.