Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Journey of a grassroot feminist change maker

Born in a conservative community of Babaji’s (priests) of Gujarat, where girls are married off at tender age and education is a far cry for them, here is Mital, the bold and enthusiastic women, about to get inducted in the Gujarat police force due to her father’s unflinching support in wake of strong resistance from relatives and within the community. Mital in her twenties is from rural areas the sleepy town of Somnath in Junagadh, thrilled with joy and satisfaction for making it to the Gujarat State police forces after years of sustained efforts. Her father retired from service, and at present works as a temple priest. Her mother is a home maker, has 2 older sisters and one brother. She studied throughout from Gujarati medium. Babaji community has strong patriarchal influence, which does not encourage girls to educate themselves. Such regressive and backward thinking leads to young girls getting married off at a tender age, even before they attain puberty. So when her father decided to educate Mital and two other sisters, he had to face stiff opposition from his relatives but they did not toe their line and chose to educate them.

MitalAfter School, she decided to become police personnel, but there was lack of guidance. She pursued Masters of Social work, besides that she even appeared for police entrance again but could not clear the physical test because of lack of preparation. She joined a government NGO in Kutch near the Indo-Pak border as a community mobilizer after masters but her work was cut short, as her family felt the remote location was unsafe for her, so she came back.

After returning, when she was searching for jobs, she faced issues like eve-teasing her locality. Her work with the NGOs had changed her outlook towards such issues a lot, otherwise earlier her reaction would have been of indifference. She felt that the youth needs to be sensitized towards such issues and they should take the initiative. This led to her joining the Youth Force started by Saath, with a vision of empowering the urban slum youth. She got the chance of planning and implementing diverse activities for youth development as a member and in the capacity of a city coordinator of Rajkot. During her work she found numerous issues of gender biases in the community, which affected her work with the youth groups and especially female members who were not allowed to participate freely. The leadership training, workshops and trips along with the experience of youth force transformed her into a feminist youth change maker.

She again started preparing for the competition and the challenge was even tougher this time on, since she was working simultaneously. She clearly planned out her daily schedule keeping in mind her strengths and grey areas. After following the tough schedule for 6 months, she was selected as armed constable by the selection committee. Mital proudly says, “There is no alternative to hard work. Success comes only to those who work hard for it. Success comes to those who relentlessly move on irrespective of challenging circumstances. Without the support of my parents, and the exposure at Saath, it would not have been possible.” Mital looking back in the past says, “If my father had not taken a stand for us, then even I would have been married off at tender age without any life of my own and led a life like any other girl in our community. Mital plans to prepare for the civil service exams, which is her next milestone.

A walk down the memory lane, My Internship with Saath, Shmbhavi Sharma

Experiences in one’s life are the tiny steps that pave the way to what we become. Therefore, I have always believed that it is very important to have the right experiences in one’s life which enables us to grow as an individual and add on to our knowledge base. Interning with SAATH indeed has been a very fruitful and great learning experience.

shambhavi

I still remember my first day at SAATH.I was a little apprehensive of what was in store for me in the coming weeks. Having decided to do my summer internship with SAATH, I ventured into the terrains of an unknown city. On my first day at SAATH, I was oriented about the various projects run by the organisation in the various cities of Gujarat.I was introduced to the project coordinators and briefed about various projects in detail. The one thing that really struck me on my first day was the warmth exuded by everyone in the office. In the days that followed, I visited the centers of various projects run by Saath i.e. Saath Savings and Credit Cooperative, Balghars, Youth group resource centre, Child Friendly spaces in Vasna, Juhapura and Odhav. It provided me a glimpse into the kind of work Saath is doing in the urban slums of Ahmedabad for marginalized children, women, youth and for holistic community development. It was a thought provoking experience to go to the field and see the reality and hardships that people face in their everyday life marked by struggle and subversion of their rights. My main assignment was a detailed study about the Youth Force programme at Saath. I studied about some of the programmes for youth conducted by civil society organizations in India and abroad. Along with this I also interacted with the youth force team leaders, visited youth force centers and actively participated in the events conducted by the field team .I fondly remember during one such visit at Youth Force resource centre in Odhav, the Youth Force members shared their aspirations and how Youth Force programme has made a significant difference in their lives by giving them a platform to showcase their talent and strengthen their innate qualities along with providing them career guidance and motivation. The enthusiasm with which the group members participated in the activities and involved me gave an insight into the pivotal role that the programme is playing for shaping the youth’s future and personality. I also got a chance to work on the half yearly donor report and was pleased to be entrusted with such a responsibility as an intern. Throughout my internship one thing which I liked the most was the office atmosphere and the warmth shown by everyone. The smiling faces in office, the excited overtones, helpful voices and lunchtime round table discussions are all a memorable part of the wonderful time spent at Saath.

Another great experience was participating in the cultural event for Nivea’s CSR event which was held in collaboration with Saath. On a short notice we had to put up an educational skit and it was incredible to have been able to pull this in such a short duration of time.Directing and acting in the play was really exciting for me. Saath along with giving me an opportunity to hone my documentation skills also gave me a chance to showcase my extra-curricular talent. It was through the constant support and guidance of Saath team that I was able to successfully prepare an elaborate report on further improvement of Youth Force programme. This could have not been possible without the support, encouragement and guidance of Saath team.

I would especially like to thank Paromita Ma’am for searching new avenues and creating opportunities for my personal growth and learning. It was wonderful to have her as a mentor as she was always available for guidance and motivated me throughout the internship. Without her encouragement and valuable advice completion of the report and my personal learning would have been incomplete. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Irbaaz and Kunal Sir for my smooth induction as an intern and helping me as an intern to feel comfortable and get acquainted with working of Saath. Their guidance and support throughout the internship is much appreciated. Vama Ma’am thank you for believing in me and entrusting me with the responsibility of putting up a skit in such short duration of time. Also, I am thankful to Abhishek and Paresh sir for giving me an insight and helping me to understand Youth Force programme in detail and getting adequate field exposure for the same. Thank you Niraj sir for giving me a direction to initiate my learning process and mould my learning outcome. I was deeply touched by everyone’s simplicity and dedication and my interaction with everyone has been wonderful.

shambhavi 1Shambhavi, along with other interns  at Saath office

It was a beautiful journey of five weeks and I am glad that I chose Saath for my block field work internship. Saath as an organisation is doing incredible work for the marginalized section of the society with its holistic approach of intervention and empowerment. I would be more than happy to be of any help in the future and the time spent at Saath would always be cherished and remembered.

Shambhavi Sharma