This winter, Asmat had dealt with its three focus groups- women, men and children. Our sessions were designed to impart knowledge about governance, conduct Aanganwadi surveys in all the hamlets of Soda, follow up the menstruation sessions conducted over the last three programs, impart non-academic and holistic education to the children, and sensitize the people about civic and sanitation issues.
For this winter program, we decided to cover pension and insurance schemes with the villagers. Our immediate goal was to disseminate information about two major schemes- Atal Pension Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Beema Suraksha Yojana. The governance sessions were conducted in three stages- we first conducted surveys in all the hamlets to gauge which session would be the most feasible in each hamlet; second, we organized door-to-door sessions to convey detailed information about the schemes in all the hamlets; and finally, we held a camp at the SBI branch in Main Soda, helping people fill forms and avail the schemes.
The hamlets covered were: Gopalpura, Srinagar, Maaliyon Ki Dhani, Main Soda, Ramjipura, Dagdiyon Ki Dhani, Ganeshpura, Indira Colony
The Governance sessions were conducted in 3 stages.
1. SURVEYS (12th – 18th December 2015): Informal Surveys were conducted by the volunteers in the above mentioned hamlets. The purpose of these surveys was to understand how many villagers have bank accounts, ID proofs and their awareness about the schemes (namely the Atal Pension Yojana- APY and the Pradhan Mantri Beema Suraksha Yojana- PMSBY schemes).It was inferred that most of the people have Bank accounts and ID proofs but seldom were aware about the new schemes (Atal Pension Yojana Scheme, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (Life Insurance), Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (Accidental/Disability Insurance). Few villagers who were already receiving old age pension just knew about that and not about the new scheme.
2. SESSIONS (18th – 20th December 2015): Door to door sessions were conducted by the volunteers. They explained to the villagers in detail the schemes (why to register for it, eligibility, requirements etc.) and tried to persuade them to come to the State Bank of India (SBI) branch in Main Soda on the 21st of December, 2015 to get their forms filled and submitted in the bank.
3. BANK CAMP (21st – 23rd December 2015): During the camps, four volunteers would always be present at the SBI Bank to help the villagers with form filling and submissions. The other volunteers would segregate and go to different hamlets to remind the villagers about the camps, as they were reluctant to turn up.
7 people applied for the APY scheme, 19 for JJBY (Life Insurance Scheme), and 56 for SBY scheme (Accidental/Disability Insurance). There were several others who took forms home to submit later.
- Even though only 82 villagers filled the different forms and had to be reminded several times about the camp, we managed to spread the word around. Several villagers had inquired about the schemes and many had tried to convince their counterparts to fill the forms in front of us.
- The most successful was the Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (Accidental/Disability Insurance) because of its minuscule premium amount (Rs 12 p.a.) and mammoth benefits followed by the Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (Life Insurance) and then the Atal Pension Yojana.
- Both the insurance schemes were extremely easy to fill and had barely any prerequisites but the pension scheme required some patience and understanding even though it was fairly simple too. From this we can infer that villagers will be more open to schemes which have minimum requirements, fewer complications and which are easily understandable.
Thus we can conclude that we were successful in achieving our short term goals through this program which were- making the villagers aware about the schemes and helping them out with the forms. This successful implementation can help us further in our upcoming programs and we can undertake similar projects.
1. Good Touch- Bad Touch and Menstruation Sessions
As a large part of December sees the schoolchildren occupied with exams, the sessions aimed at the adolescent girls were moved inside the classrooms. The administration of five schools was contacted by our team and a schedule was fixed according to the availability of students in grade six and above. The sessions took place for an hour each after the students had given their final exam. The sessions for the girls followed the same basic themes for girls from class VI to class XI: menstruation and good touch-bad touch.
|Name of School||Grade||No. of Female students|
|Kanya Pathshala||6th 7th 8th||20|
|Ramdwara||6th 7th 8th||25|
|Adarsh||6th 7th 8th||30|
- ACTIVITY: The sessions begun with a discussion on menstruation. This was facilitated by the volunteer asking one student to draw an object on the blackboard, blindfolded (Eg. A donkey). Her classmates were to guide her sketch and help her arrive at the final object by providing her with verbal instructions at every step. When the drawing on the blackboard was deemed complete by the class, the blindfold was to be removed. What we were left with on the board would be an inevitably distorted depiction of whatever she had been told to draw. The volunteer then would take over, and liken the practice of a person drawing blindfolded to the tendency of someone trying to negotiate concepts without understanding them, and without being aware of facts.
- DISCUSSION: With this, the biological processes behind menstruation and the dissolution of menstrual myths were to be foregrounded with the girls through an easy discussion in an open and positive atmosphere (The volunteers were taught Hindi terminology and method beforehand with reference to menstruation). Hygiene was also to be discussed in this part of the session.
Sequence: Volunteers to start by asking students if they understood why periods occur and address each response. Secondly, volunteers to explain the biology in detail and explain why it is not an impure state, therefore stressing on the baseless nature of myths- our aim being to nurture a healthy curiosity about socio-cultural norms. Lastly, to briefly expand on the methods and importance of maintaining hygiene during cycle.
- VIDEO: Post the discussion on menstruation, we would move on to screening a video on the laptop. The animated video follows a young girl called Komal as she is a victim of CSA and it explains notions of personal space and safety through Good Touch-Bad Touch. The volunteers were to play the video, pause it at intervals and question the students about what they had seen up to the point, or explain something in their own words. Recognising private parts of one’s body and defining touches of ‘bad’ nature based on what causes one discomfort, pain or ill feeling were to be stressed upon. After the video was seen, volunteers would draw the students into a discussion with three primary points to lay stress on:
1. Imbibe individual agency
2. Give them ownership of their body
3. Empower them to say no.
1. The girls were responsive in all schools and were intrigued by the CSA video- despite the fact that it was animated and essentially aimed at a younger audience than themselves.
2. Awareness regarding menstruation was, as expected, more widespread in the older lot of girls (8th class onwards) and they were more interested in this segment of the session than the other.
3. The girls did find the CSA video comical at parts but did grasp its significance by towards the end. On observing that the issue of harassment was not being regarded seriously by some of the participants, the volunteers shared personal experiences with them and discussed the basic safety rules and defensive techniques.
TO CONCLUDE: The sessions in the schools were overall cited as a success by the team. It gave the volunteers a disciplined and respectful environment within which to engage the girls on pertinent social issues, and the girls themselves were quick to follow and receptive. Menstruation and good touch- bad touch were relevant themes, though the former gauged more of a response with the older group of girls. The CSA video quickly seized their attention and kept the participants engaged, and the session can be implemented with a younger group of children in the future.
2. Menstruation Follow-up Sessions
After conducting menstruation sessions in the previous summer which focused mainly on the biological process behind menstruation, dismissing myths and taboos and explaining the importance of maintaining personal hygiene in almost all the hamlets in the village, it was deemed appropriate to initiate follow ups to gauge the impact and monitor the efficacy of these sessions. The strategy adopted was to engage in conversation with the women while people were being gathered for the sanitation and civic awareness sessions.
Hamlet-wise implementation of sessions: The following hamlets were covered in the follow-ups:
-Dagdiyon ki Dhani
- It was heartening to see that many of the women and girls retained most of what was relayed to them during the previous sessions, particularly the importance of personal hygiene and sanitation and the advantage of using sanitary napkins over cloth pads.
- The strategy also helped us reach out to the women who hadn’t attended the sessions previously and do a short session with them as well along with the follow-up with others.
- Though we already had information about the majority of adolescent girls already using sanitary pads, the girls relayed that some women switched to using pads post the summer sessions with them.
- The follow-ups also pointed at the women opening up to talk about menstruation and their changing attitudes towards shying away from talking about this subject.
- Indira Colony housed some of the most progressive women and a fruitful follow-up, much like the initial sessions held in the previous summer.
TO CONCLUDE: Overall, the follow-ups indicated that the menstruation sessions held in the summer programs left a lasting impact in varying degrees. The adolescent girls retained much more than the elder women did and were more receptive in every way. Also since most of them use pads and don not follow/ believe in the myths related to menstruation but are forced to do so by the older generation, therefore our focus in future would be more inclined towards this target group. The problem of disposal of sanitary napkins is expected to be dealt with to some extent with the setting up of a waste management plant in the village.
As most children in Soda have their exams during winter, we executed our sessions accordingly, aiming to make the most of our limited time with them. Being a lively and enthusiastic lot, they responded well to all the thematic activities the volunteers engaged them in. Songs, actions and poems taught in the previous programs were revised in all the hamlets so see their grasping and retention abilities. In the course of the program, we focused on the following themes- confidence building, creativity, expression, hygiene issues and gender sensitization.
The hamlets covered were: Main Soda, Gopalpura, Ramjipura, Ganeshpura, Maliyon ki Dhani, Nayakon ka Tila, Dagdiyon ki Dhani, Srinagar. One session each was also conducted in Indira Colony and Gazbiron ka Chauraha.
DHANIS COVERED (No. of Children Present)
||Main Soda (17)||
CIVIC AND SANITATION AWARENESS
The civic and sanitation awareness sessions were a major focus of the winter program. The people of Soda, although relatively keep their surroundings clean, have very little access to information about the importance of maintaining hygiene and sanitation, and our aim for the program was to disseminate information on the following issues.
The following hamlets were covered: Nayakon ka Tila, Ramjipura, Maliyon ki Dhani, Ganeshpura, Gopalpura, Srinagar, Indira Colony, Dagdiyon ki Dhani
TWO PIT SYSTEM:
Under the Swachh Soda Abhiyan, two-pit system toilets have been constructed in most houses in the village; however, their usage has to be incentivized, which was what our volunteers aimed to do through their sessions.
- To make sure about the idea of Two Pit System, a full fledged research was done by our volunteers on this subject beforehand and task was to make villagers understand its benefits.
- The issue of defecating in open was discussed and the consequences such as proliferation of diseases were elucidated. We talked about the functioning of the two pit system and encouraged them to use the toilets constructed in their houses.
- The two pit system was incentivized through the fact that it used only 1.5-2 litres of water and is very hygienic as compared to traditional toilets where mosquito breeding is common. While it was difficult to convince some people, even with the incentives, to give up their long continuing habit of defecating in the open, we worked to drill into them the pitfalls of the same, and were able to make people question why they did it, and how they could work towards changing their habits and attitude.
- Some reasons cited by the villagers for not using the toilets included feeling suffocated inside toilets and needing open air to defecate. After citing the harmful effects on health due to open defecation, many people positively responded to change this habit and bring the unused toilets, which earlier were used to wash utensils and other household chores, in use.
WATER PURIFICATION SYSTEM:
The fluoride content in the water in Soda is very high, which results in stunted mental and physical growth, amongst other problems like brittle bones and yellowing teeth. We introduced to the villagers for this, a simple water purification system, which can easily be done at home.
- Our Water Purification model is based on a simple formula of Tulsi (basil) leaves. Boiling water was not a solution for the masses because most of them were reluctant to waste resources, so we introduced the unique method of decreasing fluoride quantities without boiling. This involved sieving water, brought either from well, pond or water tank, from a 4-fold layer of a cotton cloth (could be a saree or dhoti) in a utensil, putting 5-6 basil leaves and leaving it for 6 hours at least. In this way, the water was made viable to drink.
- In our previous program we already taught kids about the hygiene, but water with high quantity of fluoride was a bigger risk. Because villagers already knew about the presence of fluoride in water, we had to make them aware about the side effects as well as get them a permanent solution.
- Volunteers received a lot of queries from the villagers regarding this simple activity, which were responded to on the spot. The general consensus and feedback from the side of the villagers was largely positive. The children were also taught this simple method, and encouraged to go home and try it out.
The Sarpanch of Soda has come up with a bio-degradable waste management plant (which utilises biodegradable wastes and converts those to manures which can be further utilised in fields). Since the inauguration of the plant was scheduled soon after our team’s departure, we had to create awareness about the plant, distinction between wet and dry waste and let them know that a vehicle would come to pick the garbage.
- Volunteers had the task of making them understand the difference in Wet (biodegradable) and Dry (non-biodegradable) waste.
- This would help keep their surroundings clean and help in providing a dumping ground for non-biodegradable wastes.