Transform the Lives of Children in Gujarat, India

 
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Sep 24, 2014

Hello from child - friendly Bhavnagar

Shaishav, in its constant endeavour in imparting knowledge about basic rights of children and make them aware about importance of education, have formally launched their new initiative project called Udan (Flight for life)from 1st July 2014.

The basic idea of initiating Udan is to bring those underprivileged children together who have dropped out of school for either economic, family or social reasons and imparting them a fresh opportunity to restart formal education, along with providing vocational guidance, life skill trainings and identifying entrepreneurial skill. Our community workers have identified 174 eligible children this year who were dropped out and were forced into child labour in various areas of Bhavnagar. From among them, we managed to motivate 52 children who were facilitated by special tuitions, training and were provided books at our Area Resource Centre (ARC), to appear in the forthcoming State Secondary School Board Examinations to be held in March 2015. Shaishav was fortunate to have an active support from local High School Principal Association in the initial period. Teaching staff were organised through advertisement or local network connections. It is our dream to bring these children in to mainstream education and make them become independent, productive and skilled citizens.

Shaishav have recently partnered with UNICEF for giving training on child rights, child protection, education and eradication of child marriages, to their six partner organizations in Gujarat who are working in grassroots with community and children. We held three training programs in August and first week of September through our CRTRC (Child Rights Training and Resource Centre) initiative, in the district of Vadodara and Banaskantha. CRTRC serves to support and strengthen many educational and empowerment training programs that Shaishav has designed and created on Teaching & Learning Materials (TLMs) and to share the same with organisations working in similar fields.

Shaishav runs Balsena which is community based organisation designed to provide collective strengths to children aged 6 to 18 years. It is run, managed and led by children with facilitative support from Shaishav. The basic objective of Balsena is to make children aware about their rights & respect within the community, to encourage their participation for enabling qualities such as confidence, sensitivity, equality, leadership, friendship and solidarity. Balsena has approximately 1300 members constitutes 44 teams from 29 areas and schools. Each team elects their captain, vice-captain and two core group members on the basis of criteria decided by themselves. These children forms the council, there they elect their president and vice president, who represents Balsena’s children voice nationally and internationally. In first week of August 2014, Balsena underwent their 12th such election, where their representative were elected. Shivani became the President. Usually the Vice-President is of the opposite sex but since Asha was at the second place, the children decided to have both Asha and Akash as Vice- Presidents. However, Balsena maintained its long-standing record that the President is a girl. Out of 12 elections, 10 times the girls have become the president. This is a classic example of girls’ empowerment.

Balsena have also developed among themselves, a savings bank scheme, which enables them to save money independently, teaching them financial responsibility. It helps them understand importance of saving money instead of spending it for leisure and other non-productive things. This money is generally a pocket money received by them from parents. They deposit this money in to their savings accounts on a regular basis and withdraw when they requires for paying their school fees or buying books, uniforms, school stationeries etc. In first week of August 2014, Balsena prepared and presented their annual report and audited accounts for its savings account members. The total savings made by the members since inception of this scheme is about INR 8 Lacs and current balance as on date is about INR 1.2 Lacs.

The vision of Shaishav is to create a safe, supportive and responsive society that upholds the protection, rights and dignity of every child in India (as defined by the law). This is to be achieved by establishing effective prevention and early intervention measures, strengthening treatment support services and building partnerships. We do this by engaging with all sectors of society upon whom the wellbeing of children depends, in initiatives that will bring about these changes. Shaishav have launch Child Protection Policy (CPP) on 2nd August 2014 in the Bhavnagar district which is the first district in the state of Gujarat. This policy is designed as outlined by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) under Article 19 and various legal statutes of the prevailing law in India. The launching of the CPP was done in presence of hundreds of teachers and stakeholders in the presence of the UNICEF chief of the state of Gujarat, the District Collector, Former Director of Professors’ Training Institute Dr. Bhadrayu Vaccharajani, representatives of Teachers’ Union, Principals’ Union, School Management, various government departments, etc. In the days to come, we will organize training with the members of Child Protection Committee members.

Thank You


Attachments:
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
Celebrating 'Udan' program's opening
Child girl labourers visiting Shaishav
Child girl labourers visiting Shaishav

Links:

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.

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Organization

Project Leader

Parul Sheth

Executive Director
Bhavnagar, Gujarat India

Where is this project located?

Map of Transform the Lives of Children in Gujarat, India