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Making Community The Space For Children’s Education: Our Effort In Ahmedabad

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“It takes a village to raise a child.”

Don’t we all wish to be in a place where we can be just us, fail, make mistakes, create something new and cherish each other’s creations and failures?

I am delighted to share a story about two young men who are giving their all to create such spaces for people in the slums of Ahmedabad. Hrishikesh Patil and Chaitanya Endluri gave up their fancy jobs to join the Teach For India fellowship and spent two years teaching in a low-income school in Chandola community of Ahmedabad.

Now they are working to create recreational community centres in the slums of Ahmedabad.

Here’s their story in their own words.

A few months back, Rehan told Ankita didi – “There is no alignment in what I study in school and what my tuition teacher asks me to do, and there is no time for me to do what I want to, it is stressful.” The crux of this small chat lingered in our minds for a very long time until we decided to do something about it.

Roots And Wings ( Brighton English School Ahmedabad)

We are alumni of Teach for India, passionate about making education-equity a reality. We want to explore the meaning of education beyond classrooms. A child spends two-thirds of their time in the community. So why not make community the unit of change to foster a holistic upbringing of our country’s future – our kids?

The idea of a space to explore, learn, unlearn from each other and creating safe environment together seemed to be a probable answer for Rehan’s query. Roots and Wings is one such attempt to answer the queries of many Rehans, their didis and parents, where kids explore their interests, re-learn what’s been taught in school with their peers, understand the community that they live in, try and solve community-related problems through fun-filled projects, unleash their talents in various art forms and sports.

What we did:

Phase 1 of Roots and Wings kicked off this year in January. Our main areas of focus are:

Academics – Kids relearn things taught in school. It looks similar to tuitions except here students are the teachers and have access to internet, tabs, books and lot of resources.

3Rs – Recycle, Reuse, and Re-invent where kids learn about waste, waste management, simple recycling ways like DIY projects to reusing the waste in their homes.

Future Planning – Kids plan their academic career to make their dreams come true. Road maps of their academic journey, challenges that they may face, whom to reach out, opportunities, scholarships, courses (online and offline) are some of the key focus areas.

Passion – Kids are exposed to different visual art forms, they have the freedom to choose whatever they want to learn then make it as their hobby. They get chance to interact with people who have made their hobbies as passion and pursue them as a career.

The challenges we faced through the stint was:

But hey! Quitters never win and winners never quit!

Changes we have seen:

  • 40 kids (on an average) turn up every day.
  • 35 % of these kids have had no TFI intervention
  • Opening circles in the centre are being conducted by kids.
  • Kids from the centre performed at “Transform Projects in Ahmedabad” after learning hip hop.
  • Kids have started exploring the tambourine, creating their own music and songs. They even performed on Brighton’s annual day.
  • Reflections on Fridays are engaging and kids come up with unique ideas to present their learnings
  • 25 kids from grade 4,5 and 6 have a roadmap of their academic journey till 10th grade and are working on challenges and opportunities.
  • Kids have written their own songs and have composed music using tambourines.
  • A meeting with parents was held which helped them get clarity on our work and believe in the space.

What’s next:

We are currently using our school space as a centre. We plan to start three centres in our neighbouring communities to broaden our impact and reach out to 15,000 families.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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Find out more about the campaign here.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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