Transform the Lives of Children in Gujarat, India

Jul 16, 2014

Hello from child - friendly Bhavnagar

Hello from Balsena children
Hello from Balsena children

Just few steps away from our dream: child - friendly Bhavnagar…

 To ensure that children have safe spaces to develop and that they rights are protected our work reaches beyond children and youth and aims to involve all the strands of society. We already have a strong foundation for linking society and integrating system of community – based protection mechanism in Bhavnagar. Our children and youth collectives, Balsena and Tarunsena, develop important life skills and help children and youth to derive support for each other. We joined community members and formed Lok Samarthan Manch, to work together to solve issues communities face and better the lives of children. We linked professionals working with and for children and organizations in Bhavnagar and formed Baldost Manch (network of friends of children) who works to advocate on behalf of children and communities and pressure government to improve children’s situation. We also trained city volunteers to ‘keep eye’ on children in need of care and protection and established Child Safety Net. Now we want to link all of these mechanism together and establish Balsena’s Safety and Protection module, which ensure that all layers of society are aware of children rights and work well together to ensure the safety and development of children.

To successfully integrate this module we will work to strengthen Balsena and Tarunsena Teams. We will establish Child Protection Committees, which consist of children, youth, community members and professionals working together on child safety and protection issues and will expand Child Safety Net by mobilizing and training people across Bhavnagar City. Once this module is established, it will fulfill our dream: creating safe, protective and child – friendly Bhavnagar. It will then be used for advocacy and child protection at State and National level. We still have miles to go and hope you be walking with us.

Now we want to share some of our successes with you …

Since 1995, aiming to reduce children engaging in labor over summer vacation, Shaishav organizes vacation camp for children to engage in fun development and life skills activities. These camps target “at risk” children, and are followed up by enrolment drives to get children into school. This year, from May 11th to 9th of June about 300 children participated in vacation camp. Children engaged in various educational and leisure activities: outdoors sports, yoga, cooking classes, playing music etc., they went to park and beach and learnt various life skills and children rights. On the last day of the camp, children organized closing ceremony – full of music, dance and laughter! Our enrollment drive contributed to 354 children being admitted to Anganwadi (pre-school care) centers, 300 enrolled to 9th standard and 749 children successful enrollment to school!!!

Education for Girls

Shaishav works relentlessly to enroll and retain children in school and prevent them to join child labor and escape child marriage. In our biggest baseline survey done in 2013 we confirmed our biggest challenges in retaining girls in school beyond elementary years. The baseline survey showed that while 77.15% of girls age 6-14 are in school, only 18% of girls age 15-18 continue their education. A number of issues contribute to the lack of retention beyond 8th standard. Many communities do not have high schools, meaning girls have to travel 3 – 5 kilometers or more to reach school. This not only can be expensive, but also dangerous for girls, especially if school finishes when it is dark. Out of school girls enter ‘invisible child labor’ engaging in domestic labor and working in the informal sector to collect money for their dowry. This deprives girls from economic and social freedoms to determine their lives. We are actively working to motivate these girls and they parents to allow girls to continue education and pass 10th standard. For the girls whom because of social constrain or/and economic responsibilities cannot go to school we offer 10th standard preparation courses and help them to enroll for open examination. We have identified 402 girls in our areas who are ready to take exams. 54 girls appeared for 10th standard exams in the last six months. Education will enable these girls to become more independent and give freedoms we all deserve.

Welcome to ‘Udan’

We are happy to share that on 1st of July we launched our new program ‘Udan’, meaning ‘fly to life’. Youth from underprivileged communities struggle to complete education and secure employment that would enable them to build sustainable livelihoods. Right to Education Act only includes children from 6-14 years of age, meaning the child of 15 years old, will have limited access to education and no government schools to ease the financial burden. According to our baseline survey, 81.95 % of girls and 54.62 % of boys age 15-18 do not continue education. These youth often feel disenfranchised: unable to access support and resources like training and loans, which would allow youth to achieve their potential, building their careers, bettering their lives and improving their communities.The program aims to provide guidance and assistance for children and young people to pass 10th standard exams, offers credible vocational courses as well as life skills and human rights trainings. This holistic triangular approach is unique and will provide a powerful set of skills to enter the workforce. We already have 206 children ready to join this program!!!


Sincere thank you from Shaishav’s children, youth and staff for your support!!!

Relaxing with yoga at vacation camp
Relaxing with yoga at vacation camp
Udan programs opening
Udan programs opening
Celebrating 'Udan' program's opening
Child girl labourers visiting Shaishav
Child girl labourers visiting Shaishav


Nov 27, 2013

Child Rights Week and Child Friendly Communities

Anti-child labour march
Anti-child labour march

Child Rights Week

From November 14th-20th, Shaishav celebrated Child Rights Week in Bhavnagar. This culminated in International Children's Day, on November 20th. For Child Rights Week, Shaishav's team-including Balsena members, Tarunsena members, Shaishav's staff and Alicia, an international funder from Child Reach International-marched into 30 slum areas, singing slogans against child labour. 41 street plays were performed about the Right to Education Act (RTE), and 29,000 flyers were distributed, about topics ranging from RTE to Child Line (a national initiative, "first responder" service offered by Shaishav for children in trouble). 2,500 individuals watched and absorbed information from the educational plays. Simultaneously, 36 "Balmelas" were held in different communities, where 1,763 children played games and created art in a safe space. Child Rights Week culminated with a press conference, in which Shaishav presented their baseline data and Child-Friendly Communities work to community members and the press. The District Collector was invited as our "chief guest," and several "Bal Dosts" (friends of children) spoke about their experiences advocating for child rights. As a result of this press conference, Shaishav's message was spread over two state level news channels, all of the local news channels in Bhavnagar as well as three local newspapers.


Child Friendly Communities Update

Shaishav finished collecting data for our Child Friendly Communities (CFC) research. Shaishav was selected as a pilot organisation for a new child friendly communities research tool kit being pioneered by CERG – the Child Environments Research Group, part of City University New York. 10 child, 13 youth and 8 adult researchers thoroughly surveyed 27 communities, allowing children and adults in the community to advocate for their own children, identifying the problems that affect the children in that community. Data analysis is finished, and now Shaishav is creating action plans with the children who live in these communities. Some of the key issues identified include: a lack of safe spaces for children to play, no primary health care facilities in the area, no local high schools (resulting in children and youth traveling far distances to attend), a lack of awareness about child rights in the community, and much more. Be on the lookout for updates about our action plans!


Dream a Dream Lifeskills Training

Shaishav has formed a new partnership with Dream a Dream, a Bangalore-based NGO who provides life skills training to children and youth. Dream a Dream came to Shaishav for a two day "training of trainers," at which Dream a Dream facilitated leadership and life skills development through games, art activities and drama, with the goal of making Shaishav staff more effective leaders during their jobs. Shaishav is excited to welcome back Dream a Dream for the second round of this training.


New Office and Training Center

Shaishav has officially moved to a new office! Thanks to donations from both the Share and Care Foundation, as well as the Asha Vijay Foundation. Shaishav has a significantly larger space. Although we were able to transfer the infrastructure from our old office quite easily, we are now in the process of fundraising to create a new training center! This presently unfurnished area will be used as a child-friendly space for Balsena events, such as leadership camps, as well as internal and external trainings. Look for updates soon on how you can help!

The Shaishav Bus, decorated for Child Rights Week
The Shaishav Bus, decorated for Child Rights Week
Street dramas about the Right to Education Act
Street dramas about the Right to Education Act
Arts and Crafts at Balmela!
Arts and Crafts at Balmela!
Sep 4, 2013

Drashti's Story and Shaishav updates

Drashti, Balsena President
Drashti, Balsena President

Meet Drashti, Balsena’s President

Drashti is Balsena’s outgoing president and one of the direct beneficiaries of your support. She is typical of many Balsena children in the way she has overcome a tough home life to persevere in achieving her goals.

‘I enjoy all Balsena activities. Unfortunately, we don’t have much time for picnics in my family, but Balsena gives me the opportunity to do these types of fun things with my friends. I am always happy when I am part of Balsena activities. Most of my friends are also in Balsena.

‘At school, I like science the most. In science we are always exploring new things and learning how people have come up with solutions to challenges. This mirrors my life – developing new problem-solving skills every day!

‘I faced discrimination as a girl, both in my family and in society. For example, if I want to go outside and play in the playground, my parents forbid me from playing with boys and make me stay inside to play instead.

‘When I first joined Balsena I did not know about my rights at all. As I understood more about my rights and how to access them, I have been able to make lots of positive changes in my own life and work towards solving my own problems. I know that education and equality with men is my right, but rather than fighting my parents on these points, I am able to convince them slowly but surely by rational discussions and showing positive examples.  This kind of change takes a long time, but I am convinced of the benefits through what I have learnt at Balsena.

‘Balsena activities are mostly practical, so it’s easy to understand and properly learn new things by actually doing them. At school we only learn theories from textbooks so it’s not as interesting or as useful.

‘I enjoy the family atmosphere of all Balsena activities. Participating fully in all planning and activities is great – I am not consulted about any decisions at home or at college, but within Balsena we all get to share our opinions and plans and get the best solution for everyone. This is very different from the rest of my life.

‘I would love all children in my community to join Balsena. The environment is not clean in my area, so I would love to see it cleaned up and kept clean. We could solve this problem through collective strength if only everyone agreed to work together. People also fight quite a bit, which could also be solved if we agreed to work together and accept our differences.

‘I want to be a social worker. Free, full education for all would help me achieve my goals, and would help all other children too. Through my role as Balsena president I already get to do lots of social work activities, so I am proud that I am already achieving some aspects of my goal. I don’t feel the need to do a degree to follow my goal – my practical experiences are already helping me achieve this, and I am grateful to Balsena for that.’


Comic Relief Project Underway

It may not be the right time of year for Comic Relief’s biennial feast of philanthropic fun, but it feels like we are wearing red noses every day here at Shaishav. April 2013 saw the official start of our new Comic Relief-funded project, after three years of formulating a project proposal.

After Lenny Henry and friends have announced the fundraising total, away from the bright lights of a London studio, Comic Relief relies on partners such as us to implement the poverty-solving ideas funded by the British public.

This is our largest every grant, from one of the world’s largest funding agencies. It will allow us to expand our programmes and advocacy to help an even greater number of children. It also represents recognition of the impact we have made so far.

The project lasts until March 2016, by the end of which we hope to have empowered children to be their own change makers and shown key duty bearers that the failure to grant every child their rights is not a laughing matter.


2013 Baseline Survey Completed

Dodging monsoons and withstanding the humidity of the season, our communities team spent June and July visiting every house in Bhavnagar’s slums to make a comprehensive study of the status of slum children in the city.

Collecting the data is a phenomenal feat. We have to draw and update maps of the areas to ensure every household is covered. We then conduct a thirty-question interview with every family, a painstaking process that involves marking each house with a painted number to ensure there are no missed households and making several repeat visits to those families who are out.

The prodigious collection of data then has to be computerised and analysed in the office. It is used to identify problems faced by children in the city and measure our impact.

Analysing the thousands of questionnaires we completed is ongoing, and we hope to give you the synopsis of the results in our next update.


New Advocacy Groups Launched

To advocate more effectively for child rights in Bhavnagar and Gujarat, we have launched the Bhavnagar Child Rights Network at a city level and, through the Child Rights Collective Gujarat, a state chapter of the Right to Education (RTE) Forum at state level.

The first is a group made up of child rights NGOs in Bhavnagar and has already met with the new local government collector, who is ultimately responsible for all services that affect children in the city. The group discussed real problems children face, problems that can be solved easily, such as dangerous overcrowding on the auto-rickshaws that transport children to school in the slums.

Talks were constructive and the next meeting, scheduled for October, will develop a strategic action plan to prioritise which issues are most important and how to resolve them.

The second group is concerned with the effective implementation of India’s Right to Education Act. Passed in 2009, the act made free and compulsory education a universal right for all children, but there have been tremendous difficulties implementing it.

The Gujarat state chapter will see Shaishav work with education networks, teachers’ unions and other NGOs to improve the delivery of every aspect of the RTE Act. Effective implementation of the act will boost the prospects of all children in Gujarat and transform the country for generations; Shaishav is proud to work towards what could be a seminal point in India’s history.


£200 Push

We are continuously grateful for your support and hope that this report has given you an idea of how your money is helping to deal children a better hand in life.

Today sees the launch of our 200 Pound Push specifically for all our supporters based in the United Kingdom. By raising only £200 on the UK GlobalGiving site, we will be able to launch Shaishav on its sister site in the United States. This is because we must have raised the equivalent of US$5,000 in the UK before our project can be accepted on the US site. Helping us with this will spread the work of Shaishav to a far greater audience and provide our American supporters with a way to donate in dollars, avoiding expensive currency conversions.

As well as helping us expand our reach in the United States, your donation will go directly towards improving the lives of children in Gujarat. With £200, we could fully educate 150 girls in topics sorely lacking in schools: equal rights, child marriage, wenlido self-defence and issues affecting pubescent girls. Together, we can build a more equal and tolerant society.

Of course, the money does not just have to come from you. You could set up a fundraiser profile with GlobalGiving UK and link it to Shaishav. Fundraising does not have to be a chore or require running a marathon; let us suggest holding a Gujarati-themed charity meal for your friends and family!

Thank you for your generous help. Please let us know of any other ways in which you would like to hear from us.

Balsena children playing
Balsena children playing
Raising awareness of Childline
Raising awareness of Childline
Children give opinions of their communities
Children give opinions of their communities
Shaishav co-founder speaking to Bhavnagar network
Shaishav co-founder speaking to Bhavnagar network
Sep 3, 2013

GlobalGivingUK visits Shaishav

Balsena learning invaluable computer skills
Balsena learning invaluable computer skills

GlobalGiving evaluators Dan Sheridan and Hannah Sainsbury visited Shaishav in August and have written the following blog about our work...


Hannah Sainsbury and I have just finished our visit to the Bhavnagar headquarters of Shaishav on our whirlwind trip around Maharashtra and Gujarat. Shaishav was our third project to visit around this part of India as part of our work with GlobalGiving UK.

Shaishav’s aim to help kids from poorer backgrounds help themselves by educating them about their own rights as children and providing them with the support needed to succeed throughout life has been incredibly successful so far. This confidence and responsibility is installed through their youth groups, Balsena and Tarunsena, which the children take charge of with as little interference from Shaishav as possible. The impact of this is incredible to see as children as young as six debate with others over the organization’s policies. These rules and regulations are often more innovative than anything that I could have come up with, such as the membership fee which has been fractionally raised for all so as to allow children unable to afford it to join.

One of the first things we were shown was a Balsena council meeting in which representatives of each of the 52 Balsena groups dotted around the city, came together to discuss and debate current and future policies. This was an excellent showcase of the confidence these kids now have and of the respect they show for one another, as all the arguments were listened to before being decided upon by the Council. Our guide for the day was beaming with pride as she translated for us the arguments over the proposed increase in the amount that can be deposited in the Balsena bank.

The children wore their pink Balsena scarves with as much pride, each group having their own individual scarves with their group names emblazoned upon them. The kids warmly told us how they were learning plenty of new skills that would help them later on in life, such as computer and leadership skills, before asking Hannah and I some pretty probing questions on how GlobalGiving could help Shaishav and Balsena.

Equally as impressive were the many Tarunsena members we met. They had graduated from the Balsena group and were continuing to help out their communities through activities such as organizing Blasena meetings, social work and campaigning for better child rights. Many of these young adults are juggling their voluntary commitments with their studies, a great reflection of their commitment to Shaishav, their communities and the children they work with.

Throughout our visit, it became clear that the enthusiasm, experience and generosity of the staff are the foundation upon which these confident youngsters are able to excel. Over the years their passionate assistance and commitment has been the cornerstone upon which the remarkable developments within these children and their communities has been able to grow.

Jun 6, 2013

No Child Labour Day & new research programme

Balsena smiles
Balsena smiles

No Child Labour Day in India

30th April was a busy day for the whole Shaishav team as they worked to spread the message about child labour and promote the long-term value of education. Shaishav staff ran an informal session for child labourers, affording children the day off and giving them an opportunity to come together in a safe and secure environment to look at some of the issues they face. The main focus of the day was fun and games – a precious chance to relax, make new friends and just be kids for the day.

We also ran our School Enrollment Drives in several schools at the same time that students went to collect their exam results, so we could help them secure the next stage in their education immediately and get them on the path towards a sustainable livelihood.

In the evening the team went to local areas where child labourers are known to work, like food and drinks stands, to distribute pamphlets about support services and begin one-to-one conversations to get these children into education. 

Let us know any about any activities you are planning for World Day Against Child Labour on 12th June.

New child-led research project: Child Friendly Communities

Balsena children and Tarunsena youth have been very busy conducting large-scale action research across Bhavnagar for the last few weeks. Shaishav was selected as a pilot organisation for a new child friendly communities research tool kit being pioneered by CERG – the Child Environments Research Group, part of City University New York. Sruthi Atmakur from CERG and Shaishav’s Executive Director Parul Sheth delivered 3 days of intensive training to 47 youngsters in May, building valuable new skills and equipping them to carry out detailed data
collection across 7 slum communities in Bhavnagar to understand the challenges children face and understand how to make their homes, schools, hospitals and neighbourhoods more child-friendly.

Balsena and Tarunsena members brought their innovation, creativity and problem-solving capabilities to the pilot study – identifying many new indicators which CERG can incorporate into their toolkit, and also trying out a new method of data collection using computers on the Shaishav bus (our mobile resource centre) to attract respondents and give them an opportunity to gain valuable new computer skills. This work will continue throughout the summer, with the analysis and report produced later this year.

Shaishav are pleased to be able to take part in this important pilot to refine and develop the research toolkit, especially as some Balsena and Tarunsena members have already honed their research skills during our last action research project – the Child Rights Audit – in 2009. Another one of the pilots was conducted in a school in Haiti after the earthquake to understand how best to develop child-friendly environments after such a huge disaster.

Let us know what you are doing to make your communities more child- friendly. Get in touch on – we’d love to hear your ideas and learn something new.

Thank you for your support for Shaishav. The Balsena and Tarunsena members are grateful for your support to allow them continue to spread messages of positive change across Bhavnagar and beyond.

Young labourer enjoying No Child Labour Day
Young labourer enjoying No Child Labour Day
Fun and games on No Child Labour Day
Fun and games on No Child Labour Day
Balsena Council planning session
Balsena Council planning session

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Project Leader

Parul Sheth

Executive Director
Bhavnagar, Gujarat India

Where is this project located?

Map of Transform the Lives of Children in Gujarat, India