Archives: Case Studies

In control of my destiny

Plan India’s Safer Cities programme strives to increase safety and access to public spaces for girls. The overarching goal of the programme is to build safe,

Plan India’s Safer Cities programme strives to increase safety and access to public spaces for girls. The overarching goal of the programme is to build safe, accountable and inclusive cities with and for adolescent girls in all of their diversity.

“Everybody is precious and has their own values”, says Meera (name changed), a spunky 17 year old member of a Safer Cities girls’ club in Delhi. The youngest in a family of eight, she is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Commerce at Delhi University.

She is also the face of Safer Cities and its considerable work in her locality, but was initially very hesitant to join. This was because she endured constant eve teasing when walking to and from school. So much so, she and her friends only ventured out of home when accompanied by family.

All this changed when Meera attended a meeting organised by Plan India on gender equality and girl friendly public spaces. Struck by the immense possibilites that lay ahead, she became a member of the Pahal (“Initiative”) girls club and was soon leading community activities and safety assessments, in addition to advocating with adult stakeholders and government officials to address issues faced by girls in her community. With Meera at the helm, street lights and CCTV cameras have beeninstalled in her locality, security guards have been positioned outside local schools, and local leaders have been roped into programme implementation.

Needless to say, Meera has been integral to the visibility and success of Safer Cities in Delhi. Her sphere of influence has only widened with time, but began with her father, an electric rickshaw driver who is now also associated with the programme. With Meera’s encouragement, he participated in a sensitisation workshop for informal transport staff, and it is with great pride that she speaks of the marked change in his attitude towards girls since then.

Now, he is an avid promoter of girls’ rights and counsels other drivers on the need to ensure the safety of female passengers. What’s more, as a result of Meera and his encouragement, Meera’s mother too is part of the community level child protection committee that leads discourse on gender equality and parents’ responsibilties regarding child rights.

Galvanised by Meera, a powerful and self-assured champion of change, her entire family and community have made great strides towards building a safer city for girls.

“Because of the BIAAG programme, I’ve learned many things and grown from strength to strength. I want to change and better my community, and I am proud to say we’ve begun to see a difference because of our work. Now, girls and boys in my community – starting from their homes – are treated equally. What better way to ensure inclusive development than to equip both girls and boys with the skills to change the world?”

Scaling the heights of success

“Growing up, life wasn’t easy. My father’s passing when I was little, and mother’s frequent ill-health made getting by impossible most days.

Uttarkashi is home to 330,000 men, women and Mamta – one remarkably brave girl.

Mamta lives in Bhankoli, Uttarkashi with her family. Her father passed away in 2002 while her mother has been unwell a long time. The remote village she lives in is considered a disaster prone area. Life, at most times, has not been kind. Making ends meet has been a constant struggle.

In 1997, Mamta became associated with Plan India and Sri Bhuvneshwari Mahila Ashram (SBMA) as a sponsored child. Through this association, she was able to pursue many activities and events that would help her blossom into a confident young woman. On completing her schooling, she enrolled in a training course on mountaineering. She went on to complete Advance Adventure and Search and Rescue courses in 2008 and 2010 from the Himalayan Adventure Institute and Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM) respectively, with Plan India’s support. Her abilities were recognised and she was employed as an instructor as soon as she completed the courses. Her life finally seemed to be coming together.

Till date, Mamta has successfully conducted over 50 training courses as an instructor. Her skills as a trainer shone through brightest when one of her students – Arunima Sinha (a special needs girl) successfully climbed Mount Everest. Mamta has also run a physical fitness programme for 50 youths so they can join the local police or Indian army.

In 2013 however, her skills were put to the ultimate test. While leading a group of 40 children as part of a mountaineering course, disaster struck. A flash flood hit the area putting their lives in grave danger. But for Mamta’s skills, the likelihood of their survival was bleak. Thankfully, she was able to use her knowledge and experience to guide her group to safety. Even more remarkable, during the disaster, she lent support to a further 5,000 people by relocating them to safer places.

Mamta’s heroism has garnered much praise from all corners of India. Tennis superstar Sania Mirza nominated her on “Aaj Ki Raat Hai Zindagi” (Tonight’s the Night), a show on the acclaimed Star Plus television channel that honours people who have accomplished the extraordinary. She was awarded for her bravery by legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan in an episode that was televised nationally.

Mamta continues to work with NIM as an instructor, with youth in her community, and is part of the Green People, an agro-tourism initiative to promote sustainable development in Uttarakhand.

Fashioning a Brighter Future

Paras, 21, lives with his parents and sister in a densely populated development on the outskirts of Delhi’s South West district.

Paras, 21, lives with his parents and sister in a densely populated development on the outskirts of Delhi’s South West district. He wants to make a career in fashion retail – something of an unusual choice for his extended family and friends who don’t have much knowledge of what it means or involves. Paras is currently enrolled in the Saksham programme and is learning job related skills along with other young men.

He says, “My father is in a government job. Most families and most boys themselves prefer a government job. It is considered as the best option for lifelong security. I guess I will have to try for a government job too but I want to make a career in fashion retail.”

“I have always been interested in fashion. I like dressing up smart and get a lot of comments from friends and other people, especially on social media, where I have more than 250 friends on Facebook.”

“Despite my interest in fashion retail, I wasn’t sure how and where to make a start. It’s not even something I could find out more about from my circle of friends or family as nobody had any idea. So when I got a leaflet about the Saksham programme offering free training for retail jobs, I was really excited.”

“I enrolled for the programme straight away and it was the best decision I ever made. I always dreamt of being able to speak English as it is a basic requirement for any decent jobs these days and more so in the fashion sector because of the kind of clientele it attracts. At Saksham, I am realising my dream. I am learning basic conversation skills in English and progressing very well. It just makes me feel confident that I can join a fashion retailer.”

“I can feel the change in my personality and the way I look at things. The biggest shift has been how I relate to girls. Prior to joining Saksham, I used to be very hesitant speaking to girls. It is not something that boys like me are used to due to the social environment we grow up in. Boys and girls remain distant and many boys struggle with how they relate to girls.”

“At Saksham, the majority of students are young women. It has been a great learning curve for me to train with girls as one group and hold conversations with them. In our lessons, we have been taught about gender relations in all spaces – something that most boys aren’t even aware of. I learnt that there is no job that boys can do and girls can’t.”

“My learnings have totally changed my attitude towards girls. It is nice to see how students who have graduated from Saksham are in jobs where boys and girls work together as one team. I would like to be in a place like that. I respect girls a lot now. I have realised that girls and boys are equal.”

Earning Her Respect

Twenty-four-year-old Shimla works as a daily wage labourer in Uttar Pradesh. Hailing from Ambedkar Nagar, one of the state’s most backward districts, she and many other female residents have

Twenty-four year old Shimla works as a daily wage labourer in Uttar Pradesh. Hailing from Ambedkar Nagar, one of the state’s most backward districts, she and many other female residents have been compelled, by less-than-favourable economic conditions, restricted mobility, patriarchal tradition and age-old discrimination against girls and women, to pursue this line of work.

Until recently, she spent every day in search of work anywhere she could find it – in fragmented workplaces with countless, exploitative and loutish employers – to earn a mere INR 80-100. She worked long hours at work without so much as a break, and came home to a growing list of chores and responsibilities as her husband, Vijay, refused to help out or find employment.

In 2015, Shimla attended the Plan India and European Union supported International Women’s Day celebration as part of the Samanta Project that aims to create a discrimination-free environment for working women by enabling them access to information on workplace rights and equality.

Life was never the same. She had found a platform to reflect, learn, lead and take bold initiatives for gender equality – at home and at work. She joined the programme, its Working Women Collective, and soon learned about workplace provisions and rights to which she and all her friends had always been entitled. She made good on this knowledge and began counselling her peers and advocating for the achievement of their rights.

In October 2016, her employer refused to pay her wages, despite a fortnight of work and her repeated requests. She took this up with fellow members of the Collectives and, bolstered, approached the Gram Pradhan (village head), persuading him to intervene. Together, they took the matter further, presenting their case to the Department of Labour and Employment in the district block of Akbarpur.

Supported by the Women’s Collective and with the law and senior government representatives on her side, Shimla’s employer came around. He increased all his female employees’ wages to match that of the men – INR 170 – almost double the amount they were receiving.

Inspired, Shimla is determined to break the glass ceiling for all women. Her routine now features orienting women on their rights, motivating and mobilising them to come together, and negotiating with their employers. In November 2016, under her leadership, the Collectives, for the very first time, were able to secure agricultural labour contracts with their employers. In doing so, they have become equal partners in the profits of these enterprises.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Shimla and her peers commemorated the day by setting upon a priority agenda of negotiation with employers on the provisions of a gender friendly workplace environment. Their list included eight hours of work, a one-hour break, equal pay (to that of men), safe drinking water facilities and a routine feedback session for grievance redressal. These changes aren’t always welcome, but they are always advocated, fiercely.

In view of Shimla’s formidable negotiation skills, she has earned great respect within her family, community and neighbouring communities too. So much so, other women from ten proximate villages have since joined the Women’s Collective and engage in empowering reflection and discussion – just like their role model.

Vijay too, has realised the error of his ways and is now very supportive of his wife – both at her workplace and in the home. They work together to contribute to their household chores and finances, jointly dealing with every day issues as well as planning for their future. With her savings, Shimla was able to repay an outstanding debt to a neighbour.

Speaking of her success, she says, “It was near impossible to convince my employers to pay me wages in parity with my male peers. There were times I ran their personal errands to change their mind-set in the hope that they would see my capabilities and know I was equal to any man, but this was a losing battle considering the monetary gains and patriarchy involved.”

“Now, my approach to problems has changed due to my learnings from Samanta and the Working Women’s Collectives. I have moved from request to negotiation, towards a vision of equality for all women everywhere. In coming years, I hope to increase the periphery of all local, contracted work so the women in my village and all neighbouring ones too, have access to work opportunities, greater confidence, empowerment and improved household economic security.”

Men and Women Should Both Work Together

Vikas, 22, lives his parents and two siblings in a rural settlement along the southern border of Delhi. He has done a diploma in electronic communications and wants to get a job in the

Vikas, 22, lives his parents and two siblings in a rural settlement along the southern border of Delhi. He has done a diploma in electronic communications and wants to get a job in the IT sector. Vikas travels nearly 50 kilometres on public transport every day to attend his classes at a Saksham training centre.

His journey is more than just some distance. Vikas moves between two environments that couldn’t be more apart – a predominantly male-dominated and gender segregated community at home, and a classroom where he is undertaking job skills training alongside girls and also learning about gender equality.

He says, “I came to know about the Saksham programme through a friend. I got hold of a leaflet and was really impressed by the offer of free training and the variety of subjects covered such as communication skills and personality development. I needed both. Also, I had heard about the high success rate of Saksham graduates in finding a decent employment after completing the training.”

“Prior to joining the Saksham programme, I had absolutely no idea what kind of skills employers are looking for, and what it’s like to work in different sectors such as retail, IT and call centres.”

“Most youth like me coming from poorer background are totally clueless about how to enter the decent job market. That’s why I consider myself lucky that I came to know about Saksham.”

“When I joined Saksham the very first thing I noticed is that boys and girls do exactly the same job training together. I learnt that there no jobs that are for men or women only. Both can do the same job.”

“It was a total change of scene for me coming from an area where you rarely see girls in public spaces. Most girls in my neighbourhood are not allowed to continue their education after they pass their Class X exams. Many are married straight after or help with domestic chores until they eventually get married. Getting a job that involves stepping outside the home is not an option for girls. Also there are bad boys in the area who don’t value girls at all and make girls feel uncomfortable. Vikas takes part in a retail role play session at a Saksham training centre.”

“Prior to joining Saksham, I didn’t really have any opinion on girls’ education and their employment after they complete their education, but now I do. I strongly feel that girls must not be discriminated against and they should be allowed to get an education. Men and women should both work.”

“When we meet former graduates, particularly girls, who are now in decent jobs, they tell us at workplace young men and women work together and show mutual respect to each other.”

“I am loving my training at Saksham. It has made me confident and totally changed my outlook towards so many things – from how I conduct myself as a professional to how I relate to girls and women. I have never been taught like this ever before.”

Picking up the Pieces

India is home to one of the largest child labourer population in the world. According to the Census of India 2011, more than 8 million children go to work rather than to school. New Delhi alone has more than 15,000

India is home to one of the largest child labourer population in the world. According to the Census of India 2011, more than 8 million children go to work rather than to school. New Delhi alone has more than 15,000 rag-pickers.

Apart from living in inhospitable conditions, these children, along with their parents, work seven days a week, picking through garbage that is toxic in nature, a serious health hazard they are more than aware off. But they have to because their lives depend on it.

Among such children was Sanam (name changed). She has been a rag-picker since the age of 8.

“After my parents migrated to Delhi from Rajasthan, we thought our lives would change for the better. Struggling to overcome our financial situation, there was no other option but for me to join my parents and younger siblings in working at the godown.”

“It was hard for me especially because I thought that after moving to Delhi, I would get the chance to go to school and college. Then I could get a job and provide a better life for my family. I struggled in the beginning to come to terms with this fact. But I never lost hope.”

More than a year had passed and Sanam was still picking pieces of plastic from mounds of garbage. It was a meeting with a Plan India staff member from the Anti-Child Labour Project that would bring much needed change in her life. Staff members spent time talking and counselling the parents to send Sanam to school. The effort eventually paid off.

Sanam, along with her siblings, soon enrolled into the project and joined the Knowledge Enhancement Centre. Along with the other children, she was given non-formal education. Not long after, one of her dreams was fulfilled when she was enrolled into a government school.

“She is so active in class. The changes we’ve seen in her over the years are truly remarkable. Initially, she was shy and hardly spoke to others, often keeping to herself. Now, she’s the first to raise her hand to answer or ask a question.” – Vishal, Project Coordinator

Today, not only Sanam, but her parents have also given up rag-picking. They now live in a resettlement colony in New Delhi where they can see their children grow up in a safe environment.

“Sanam was always eager to go to school and would often cry when, instead, she had to go to work. As a mother, it was hard for me to see her like this. Thankfully, now my children can look forward to a bright future. And as for Sanam, this is the happiest she’s ever been and that’s more than enough for me.” Nadeema, Sanam’s mother.

Growing from Strength to Strength

At seventeen years of age, Jennifer is a young, vibrant, ambitious young girl living in Mangolpuri, Delhi. When she was sixteen – she was suffering from anaemia

At seventeen years of age, Jennifer is a young, vibrant, ambitious young girl living in Mangolpuri, Delhi. When she was sixteen – she was suffering from anaemia.

Jennifer lives with her parents, four sisters and one brother in Delhi. Her father works as a tailor while her mother is a housewife. She tells us, her favourite subject is history and she likes listening to music, hanging out with her friends and spending time at the Health Information Clinic (HIC) run by Plan India in her community under the Young Health Programme (YHP).

Initially, she was a shy unambitious girl, afraid and scared to talk to others and did not give much thought to her health, particularly, her eating habits. Then one day, she heard about the HIC from a friend. Jennifer learned about the training’s provided at the centre, along with information on health, cleanliness, etc. Hearing about this got her excited and so she joined the HIC. While there, she attended peer educator training, poster making classes, took part in anti-tobacco rallies and other engaging activities. But all was not well.

Jennifer was suffering from health issues. She used to eat 1-2 rotis (homemade bread) a day without any meals in between. She was later diagnosed with anaemia (a low amount of red blood cells in the body) and became weak, barely being able to leave her home or go to school. Lonely and struggling to come to terms with her ailment, Jennifer was beginning to become isolated from the outside world. She stopped attending the YHP and very rarely would meet her friends. Her parents and siblings were growing more and more concerned about her as the days went by.

It was her association with YHP that helped her fight back against her illness.

When the YHP staff heard about Jennifer’s condition, they immediately intervened and had her admitted to a hospital. On admission, she underwent a blood transfusion operation. The operation successful and over time, Jennifer was able to regain her health and get back to full fitness.

For a young girl like Jennifer to go through such an ordeal was certainly scary. This experience not only made her healthier but braver. She continues to visit the HIC regularly and take part in the various activities. She even shares all her knowledge with her family and friends and has encouraged her sisters to join the YHP as well.

Speaking about her ambitions, Jennifer says she would like to be a teacher one day and with the support of her family, she will definitely succeed in her ambitions. She tells us, “I never really cared about my health earlier. But since then, I have become more aware. Even my mother is more conscious about mine and my whole family’s health and well-being now”.

Making Learning Fun and Safe

The Senpur Primary School in Ambedkar Nagar, Uttar Pradesh, has some 63 students and four teachers. Located in a tiny village, the facilities would not necessarily inspire children to come to school every

The Senpur Primary School in Ambedkar Nagar, Uttar Pradesh, has some 63 students and four teachers. Located in a tiny village, the facilities would not necessarily inspire children to come to school every single day. Happily though, that is not the case in this small school. It boasts of cheerful and committed students and teachers who work together to make learning safe and fun.

Senpur Primary was not always the pride of Ambedkar Nagar. A while ago, toilet facilities for students were sorely lacking. Girls especially did not regularly attend class due to poor hygiene conditions. The school had no safe drinking water or adequate grounds for the children to exercise. Worse still, open defecation was also practiced around the school. These untenable conditions led to a grave increase in the school’s dropout rate over time. Both school and students had all but given up hope, that is, until a visit by Plan India’s staff.

Upon learning of the lack of facilities at the school, Senpur Primary was selected to be part of the Support My School (SMS) project implemented by Plan India supported by Coca-Cola and NDTV. As part of the project, a strategic plan was laid out in consultation with the School Management Committee (SMC), school authorities and students. Shortly after, separate toilets were built for girls and boys, safe drinking water was made available and sports facilities were also provided for. Students were oriented on environment-friendly practices like tree plantation and rain water harvesting as well. Upon the complete and very welcome renovation of the school, its maintenance was handed over to the school authorities.

Since the SMS project, a number of positive changes have been seen at Senpur Primary. Among other things, the number of children enrolled in Class I increased from 58 to the current 63 and retention went up from 51% to 80%. Now, animated and packed SMC meetings take place at the school on a regular basis, the teachers are confident and most importantly, the children enjoy coming to school to study and play with their friends.

The Support My School project contributes to the lives of vulnerable children across the country, providing them holistic, quality education and the facilities to thrive.

Teaching to make a difference

A teacher, takes a hand, opens the mind and touches the heart! Teachers play an irreplaceable role in a students’ life. Their thoughts, ideologies and knowledge stays with a student all through

A teacher, takes a hand, opens the mind and touches the heart! Teachers play an irreplaceable role in a students’ life. Their thoughts, ideologies and knowledge stays with a student all through their life. And when a teacher is as diligent as Sanjay Kumar, then undoubtedly students are motivated. Speaking to 1,600 students at one go and hand-holding each, Sanjay teaches complex mathematical equations like a pro!

Sanjay has been teaching Math to students of Class IX and X at the Digital Learning Centre (DLC) in Dwarka. The Digital Learning Centres, set up by Plan India in collaboration with Ericsson, utilise technology solutions to provide a quality education to young women in the age of 15-25 years within their own communities, thereby overcoming the challenge of limited mobility. And Sanjay has been there since its inception. “When I first joined, I did not have a lot of exposure on ICT (Information and Communications Technology), but after initial hiccups, I learnt the proper use of ICT and now from the DLC hub, I connect with 1,600 girls across Delhi and teach them Math. I ensure that all doubts regarding course curriculum, equations and problems are addressed in the hour long sessions,” shared Sanjay.

Speaking about motivation, Sanjay remarks, “I get to learn so much from the girls, it is a new day every day. I am able to impart knowledge across diverse sections of society and classes here are completely free of cost. It is a great morale booster for me.”

The DLC hosts 4 batches per day starting from 1.30 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. so that girls can attend the classes after school hours. The facility, which is clearly accessible from the main road, is well maintained and has all the basic amenities. English, Science and Math are taught along with special classes on personality development, human rights, sexual and reproductive health and career counselling.

To gauge progress and development, Sanjay has devised an assessment routine, which helps him understand the requirements of the students.

“Girls are the future of the country, when one educates a girl, society changes for the better. I witness progress every day, I see the girls excelling in studies, forming opinions and voicing their concerns on early marriage. I feel I am empowering them through education,” he beams.

Passion and desire to empower girls through education is clearly what drives this educator.

Learn more about the Digital Learning Centres

Rupam’s grit and determination is an inspiration

Rupam is an 18-year-old member of Plan India’s Youth Advisory Panel (YAP) who has played a significant role in creating awareness on disaster preparedness during floods in his village in Bihar.

Rupam is an 18-year-old member of Plan India’s Youth Advisory Panel (YAP) who has played a significant role in creating awareness on disaster preparedness during floods in his village in Bihar. She joined Plan India’s YAP programme in 2015 and the knowledge helped her steer her family and neighbour to safety

“As a youth mobiliser, I helped in sounding the alarm on August 14, 2017, the day of the flood and also helped my family and neighbours reach higher ground. Now, we are taking special care of the children, especially girls. We are holding one on one conversations with girls and women in our village and sharing information of good touch-bad touch and are strictly warning everyone from sending their children away with relatives in the city. We are encouraging them to hold ground. We will get out of this together!” she shares emphatically.

During crises situations, many a times, parents feel that children would be better off with relatives in the city, but in reality, many face exploitation, and Rupam’s training has taught her well. Plan India, as part of its preparedness mechanism, has empowered youth mobilisers through trainings, capacity building and information.

“I also know karate,” she giggles.

While children are trying to work around their way in these times of severe adversity; problems of open defecation, damaged houses, loss of agricultural land is looming heavily upon them. Women and girls specially are facing huge problems regarding sanitation.

“We take turns to relieve ourselves, a group acts like a barrier and hold scarves (a.k.a chudni). Managing periods is becoming a problem as well. A contaminated water table too is adding to our woes. Access to safe drinking water is limited.”

There is an immediate need to address the health and hygiene issues in the village. Sitamarhi is one the worst affected villages in Muzaffarpur district.

Plan India, in the past, had constructed water pumps in the village (locally known as champa kal) in higher grounds, and those are the only hand pumps that are still accessible, rest are well inundated. “The hand-pumps which are on the higher ground constructed by Plan India, are our only source of drinking water,” she shares. The preparedness has been very beneficial to the community and children like Rupam reflect the best of such awareness trainings and programmes.

Bihar is reeling under the effects of floods, huge loss of lives, property, livelihoods have been reported all over the state.

Plan India is amongst the first responders on-ground and is providing humanitarian relief to the most vulnerable and most affected. Hygiene kits, nutritional dry food items, tarpaulin, water purification tablets are being disturbed amongst affected families and communities. The team is also planning to conduct general health camps to address health and hygiene related issues. Plan India would also work towards the containment of mosquito breeding.