Archives: Case Studies

MY JOB SECURES MY FAMILY

Name of Student: Akshay Hanumant Kharat

Designation: Sales Executive

Name of Company: Bajaj Finance

Salary: 18,000/- per month*

Location: Pune
“I left my home town with hardly some money and shifted to Pune. I was desperately looking for a decent job to earn money and support my family to meet out daily expenses
– Akshay Kharat

Akshay belongs to lower middle class farmer family living at Ambad. He completed his higher secondary from his native village and migrated to Pune few months back for livelihood and future career prospective. On the day of travelling to Pune, all his money got pickpocketed and somehow he managed to reach Pune. One of his friends helped him offering his rented accommodation. He started looking for consultancies and placement agencies to find work with bare minimum salary however he could not get the desired job.

He met with one of his friend’s friend who had attended Saksham training earlier and he recommended him to enrol for the program. Akshay visited Akurdi centre and got enrolled in retail domain. Post his training completion, he attended several rounds of interview with Bajaj Finance and finally got selected for the position of sales executive in Pune. He is very delighted to find an opportunity with a BIG brand like Bajaj finance and he is putting his best in his job. He is also very thankful to Saksham and whole project team for their support during his tough times. He is now able to send money to his parents at village.

*Joined with the mentioned salary in October 2021

TODAY I AM THE FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR MY FAMILY

Name of Student: Ms. Anita Kumawat

Designation: Sales Representative

Name of Company: City Mart, Jhotwada

Salary: 9,500/- per month*

Location: Jaipur
“Joining Saksham centre was one of the most important decisions of my career which have provided me a launch pad to start living my dreams and fulfill the financial need of family.
– Anita Kumawat

Anita, lives in a rented Tin shade in an urban slum of Jaipur with her parents and two brothers. Her father, a marginal farmer is dependent on agricultural produce for income. After completing her graduation, she wanted to opt for preparation of competitive examinations for a government job but could not do so due to the poor financial state of the family. She meet with Plan India’s community mobilizers in a door to door awareness campaign.

Saksham team approached her twice to visit the centre and counselled her to understand her needs. She was determined to pursue competitive classes but was unable to pay fees. Post counselling she was excited to join the program so that she could earn and save some money to follow her aspirations. She showed excellent dedication during her training in the retail domain throughout her course. Now, Anita is successfully placed with City Mart, a renowned retail chain. She is happy that now she can help her parents financially and save her own future dreams.

*Joined with the mentioned salary in October 2021

I ACQUIRED THE SKILLS TO BECAME FINANCALLY INDEPENDENT

Name of Student: Ms. Sneha Sham Bhande

Designation: Customer Service Executive

Name of Company: Sai Baba TVS Showroom

Salary: 12,000/- per month*

Location: Mumbai
“Considering the financial condition of our family, I always wanted to get a well-paying and stable job soon after my higher secondary exams and support my father.
– Sneha Sham Bhande

Her father’s unstable earnings were often not meeting all the requirements of the family. Hence she kept searching for various job opportunities but could not get anything. She gave a few interviews but could not clear the same as she was scared, nervous and not confident to face interviews. Due to the family’s weak financial condition, she could not pay the fees for training and placement at job consultancies. Once she came to know about Saksham and it being free-of-cost program, she quickly enrolled for it. The program team worked with her on improving her weaknesses and encouraged her to attend maximum sessions so that she could remove her fear of facing interviews. Her determination finally paid off whereby she was hired by an authorised TVS agency as a customer service executive. Sneha is now a diligent employee and is happily serving not only her customers, employer but also fulfilling her duties as a loving and responsible daughter of her father.

*Joined with the mentioned salary in July 2021

Girls need to be safe online, as well as in the streets

According to Plan International’s research, cities are not safe places for girls and young

According to Plan International’s research, cities are not safe places for girls and young women: on the streets, on public transport and in most public spaces they are frequently made to feel uncomfortable, unsafe and intimidated, just because they are young and female.

To combat this, we developed the ‘Safer Cities for Girls’ programme, which focuses on increasing access and safety in public spaces, giving girls a voice when it comes to urban development and governance and increasing girls’ autonomy and mobility in the city.

While we know that girls and young women are continually harassed on the streets, they are also faced with significant levels of harassment online. We carried out the largest ever survey on online violence – involving 14,000 girls in 22 countries – which shows one in five (19%) have left or significantly reduced use of a social media platform after being harassed, while another one in ten (12%) have changed the way they express themselves. More than half (58%) have been harassed or abused online.

Nineteen-year-old Kirti is one of Plan India’s Safer Cities for Girls youth leaders from the south-eastern region of Delhi.

Kirti, who is currently studying via distance learning at the University of Delhi, has been an active participant and leader within the Safer Cities programme for a number of years. She represented the project in the 2020 World Urban Forum, held in Abu Dhabi, and has trained as a Champion of Change.

She trains other girls on issues related to gender-based violence and what they can do to deal with sexual harassment in public spaces. “I encourage them to share their problems and be fearless,” Kirti says.

Kirti also carries out safety audits of local neighbourhoods, before presenting recommendations to authorities and local government. She believes the Safer Cities programme has “led to improved confidence and increased mobility among girls in my neighbourhood”.

But while girls are being given tools to tackle abuse in public spaces, when it comes to online harassment, reporting mechanisms are still not effective. “The world needs to acknowledge this issue because it is posing serious concerns. Almost every girl is using smartphones and online applications,” she says.

Kirti recalls a personal incident of online abuse. “I created an account on Instagram and posted a picture. My picture was downloaded by a boy. He used my picture for his Instagram profile.”

“I came to know about this. Instead of panicking, I reached out to my friends on Instagram and asked them to report this profile as fake to Instagram. He not only removed my pictures but also deleted the account. I was angry but dealt with it fearlessly.”

Kirti credits her training with the Safer Cities for Girls programme for helping her stand up for herself online, and for helping her feel a sense of community. “Girls should not feel scared if they face any incident of online abuse,” she says.

“Instead, learn about privacy settings and report to the Cyber Crime cell. We encourage girls to report and share. Together, we can deal with the issue.”

Kirti also has the following advice for social media companies: “I want to ask Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms to provide high-security features for these apps to prevent unwanted people from commenting without our permission.”

I want to create child marriage free villages

In India’s southern state of Telangana, close to 27 per cent of girls get married between the ages of 15 and 19. A vast majority of these marriages take place in rural areas, predominantly among the most socially and economically disadvantaged communities.

In India’s southern state of Telangana, close to 27 per cent of girls get married between the ages of 15 and 19. A vast majority of these marriages take place in rural areas, predominantly among the most socially and economically disadvantaged communities.

This situation is all too familiar to 18-year-old Ragini* who has seen many teenage girls in her area being forced into child and early marriage by their parents. Ragini, however, is determined that she won’t keep quiet and will do something about it.

My father abandoned me soon after I was born. He wanted a boy. He didn’t want to take up the responsibility of raising a girl child. Barely able to make ends meet, he couldn’t face the prospect of any more hardship to raise money for my dowry in the future. He left my mother and I was brought up by her and my grandmother.

My birth was a result of arranged marriage between my parents. My mother was barely 18. She didn’t have any say in her own marriage that so dramatically changed her life.

I have grown up witnessing the extreme suffering my mother has endured in raising me all by herself – particularly in a society that places even less value on a woman abandoned by her husband. She works very hard as a manual labourer to earn just about enough for us to survive.

Her daily struggles serve as a strong reminder to me as to why girls should never be forced into marriage and why they must be given an education to stand on their own two feet.

When I was in class 8, I became aware that my friend and classmate was getting married – her parents arranged it for her. I was shocked and deeply upset for her. I reported the matter to my teachers who met with the girl’s parents but to no avail. The parents were adamant and strongly resisted anyone interfering into their private affair.

My teachers backed off, but I wasn’t prepared to let this injustice happen to my friend who was just a child. I mobilised about 10 girls in my class and reported the matter to the local authorities. With their intervention the child marriage was stopped. It made me realise that if girls raise their voice, things can change.

A year ago, I became part of Plan International’s Girls Advocacy Alliance project that’s working to end child marriage in my district and is empowering girls to realise their rights.

Being part of a movement that involves many other girls like me has boosted my confidence and strengthened my resolve to make a difference. I have learnt how I can advocate for girls’ rights, mobilise girls to stand up for themselves and influence those who can make things better for them.

With the knowledge and skills I have gained, I have now taken on the challenge to make as many villages child marriage free as possible. I speak to religious and community leaders, hold meetings with local government officials and regularly motivate girls and their parents to put an end to child marriage. Only when the society starts valuing girls equally to boys, real change will happen.

It’s not easy to convince people to change their mindset. It takes a lot of effort. I am used to facing resistance from parents and community elders, but I don’t shy away from speaking my mind. If necessary, I remind them it’s illegal to get their daughters married off if they are under 18.

On the other hand, I tell girls about the help they can access if they are ever in that situation. They can call the helpline or even go the police. I strongly feel that people responsible for child marriage must not go unpunished. Slowly, the change is happening. It will take time, and I am not expecting miracles overnight.

I have completed my A levels and want to pursue a degree in commerce. I want to be a civil servant and pull myself and my mother out of poverty. Recently, my father made contact with us and visits us occasionally. Despite the extreme challenges of the past, I want to keep looking ahead.

Girls tell me that they feel inspired by me and think of me as a leader. I do feel proud of myself that despite all my personal struggles I never feel hopeless and beaten. On the contrary, I feel there is so much more I can achieve.

*Name has been changed to protect identity

I took the lead and stopped my marriage

Sangeetha*, 19, lives with her widowed father, sister and grandparents in a remote village in India’s Telangana state.

Sangeetha*, 19, lives with her widowed father, sister and grandparents in a remote village in India’s Telangana state. Her family lives on a meagre income from agriculture. Poverty, limited opportunities, and perceptions of protecting traditions and family honour – all continue to fuel the practice of child marriage among local communities. Many of Sangeetha’s friends are already married. She herself faced the spectre of child marriage a couple of years ago. That’s when she decided to take matters into her own hands.


 

It’s common in my community for girls to be married off by the time they are 16 or 17. Many girls I grew up within the village are already married and some even have become mothers.

They all tell me how difficult life is for them. From dropping out of education to facing challenges with husband and in-laws, and the burden of early motherhood – they deeply regret it. But they had no choice in their marriage. The decision was made for them.

It’s a tough life for girls here. Their dreams end when it’s time to pursue higher education. The nearest college is miles away in the town and the only way to get there is either on a bicycle or a combination of a long trek to reach the main road and then using an unreliable local bus service which often doesn’t turn up.

Parents don’t want to send their girls to college due to fear of harassment by boys and men during the daily commute. They are always anxious about protecting the family’s honour. Any rumour or even a sighting of a girl speaking to an unknown male can result in severe consequences – from the restriction of movement to being pulled out of education.

As if this is not bad enough, the girls who drop out of school and stay at home are under the constant watch of elders who fear they will fall in love with boys and elope, bringing dishonour to the family. Therefore, for parents, getting their daughters married off as soon as they can is the easiest option. It involves the least hassle. For girls, this means a dead end.

I never wanted to be in that position. That’s why when my father first mentioned marriage to me when I was about 15, I burst into tears. I cried for days in protest and he eventually backed off. I was allowed to continue my A levels, even though my grandparents were opposed to it.


 

I subsequently got involved with Plan India’s Girls Advocacy Alliance (GAA) programme that promotes girls’ and young women’s leadership and equal opportunities for them. Ending child marriage in communities like mine is one of the main priorities of the programme.

I already knew from speaking to other girls how devastating child and early marriage can be. By becoming part of GAA, I gained much more knowledge about the true scale of its harmful impact – from consequences on girls’ health to their ability to have a career and be economically independent. I also gained confidence on how I can protect myself and stand up for my own rights.

So, when my father raised the issue of marriage again recently, I was far better prepared. Even though he was more adamant that before, I was able to explain to him how early marriage would damage my chances in life and that I wanted to become a nurse and have a career.

He faced intense pressure from my grandparents and other people in the community who warned that delaying my marriage would risk family honour and also create difficulties in finding a match for my 16-year-old sister in the future.

I wasn’t going to compromise my future for anything and told my father if he forced me, I would inform the local government official. And if that didn’t work, I would report him to the police.

This time there were no tears. I instead used my voice and confidence to defend my rights. I realised that change must start at home. I took the lead and stopped my own marriage.

At first, my father was surprised by my confidence and my conviction to go to any length to stop my early marriage. After initial reluctance, he came around the idea that it’s in my best interest to complete my science degree and have a career.


 

Girls in my community now look up to me and see me as a leader. They share their problems with me, and I advise them on how they can discuss issues with their parents and speak up for themselves.

I used to be a very shy girl prior to becoming part of GAA. Now, I am a totally transformed young woman. I regularly speak at my college events and also give awareness speeches on the issue of child and early marriage at village fairs and festivals.

I love dancing and now feel confident in myself to give public performances. I also regularly take part in dance competitions across the district.

Feels like my life has totally changed in the last year. I used to hear that there is nothing that girls can’t achieve. I now truly believe it.

*Name has been changed to protect identity

Reaching out through digital classrooms

Covid-19 has threatened the future of thousands of students from disadvantaged communities due to the closure of schools. They are at the risk of dropping out of education for having missed a major part of their academic lessons.

Covid-19 has threatened the future of thousands of children, particularly those from the disadvantaged communities due to closure of schools. They are at the risk of dropping out of education for having missed a major part of their academic lessons. The children who need extra academic support are the most vulnerable and may never return to school, eventually falling into the trap of exploitation like child labour and child marriage.

A group of around 60 Youth Fellows in Bihar and Jharkhand are harnessing the power of digital mediums to ensure the continuity of education for such children. They are aspiring and promising youth between the age group of 18 and 24 years serving as part-time teachers. They provide online after-school support to improve the performance of children from the disadvantaged communities enrolled in VI to X grades.

Realising that physical classrooms are no more a possibility due to COVID-19, they record teaching sessions on topics related to Mathematics, Science and English and share them with children over Whatsapp and YouTube. This is revolutionizing not only the forms of pedagogy but also the ways of learning for the children.

The Youth Fellows were selected by Plan India a year ago to increase the learning outcomes of children who need extra academic support. They were mentored by Plan India experts to cultivate knowledge, skills, and mind-sets necessary to act as a teacher.

When the schools were announced shut due to the lockdown, Plan India’s state teams collaborated with the School Management Committees, and parents and decided to continue educational learning of children through digital mediums like WhatsApp, YouTube etc.

The initiative has been successful in engaging children in the absence of classroom learning experience. With one Youth Fellow attached to 30-40 children, the Fellows are now supporting around 2000 children, the majority of whom are girls. This is being done in more than 80 villages of Samastipur, Muzzafarpur, Saran, Vaishali and Jamui districts of Bihar and Khunti and West Singhum in Jharkhand. They also take out 2-3 hours in a day and thrice in a week to teach in a physical set up while taking all the Covid-19 precautionary measures like social distancing, use of masks, handwashing, etc.

“Taking these classes has made me realise that I can fulfil my dream of becoming a teacher. I too get to learn a lot while teaching the children,” says Preeti, one such Youth Fellow from Shivanandpur village in Samastipur, Bihar. Through this experience of online teaching, the Youth Fellows are getting an intense exposure to the problems of quality education necessary to bring the change and equality for girls and boys in the same.

Asha worker Parbati puts her best foot forward to fight COVID-19

In the wake of COVID-19, Parbati has been on her toes for the past few weeks gathering details about people who are home-quarantined in her village and others who could be vulnerable, at the drop of a hat.

Asha worker Parbati puts her best foot forward to fight COVID-19

In the wake of COVID-19, Parbati has been on her toes for the past few weeks gathering details about people who are home-quarantined in her village and others who could be vulnerable, at the drop of a hat. She stands as a pillar of strength and support for those who are isolated by supplying them with food kits and medicines. She is also generating awareness among the people to maintain social distance in the village and educating them on regular hand washing.


Caption: Parbati doing a regular checkup of a pregnant women in her community

She works in a rural community of Mayurbhanj district in Orissa which has a very low literacy rate and people rely more on local quacks to treat illness rather than seeking professional medical help. As a member of Self Help Group under Plan India’s ‘partner NGO Association for Rural Awareness and Mass Voluntary Action (ARAMVA)’, she along with other members are making and selling masks, something they learnt during a tailoring workshop last year. ARAMVA also empowered her with appropriate knowledge, skill, and attitude through a training programme last year, which is now helping her to deliver her duties of an active frontline healthcare worker in the face of global pandemic outbreak.  Even before the lockdown was announced, she was mobilizing youth leaders of ARAMVA–Plan project to help her stop non-essential and indiscriminate movement from in and out of the village and motivating people to stay indoors.

During her capacity building training, she developed skills and knowledge to facilitate healthcare services, adolescent health, social education, child health care, pregnancy care, safe delivery, lactating mother care, growth monitoring, public health counseling etc. She is now able to perform her duties in an impactful and desired manner and ensuring the safety of the people of her village and the surrounding communities.


Caption: Parbati checking the weight of a new born baby in her community

She also counsels women on birth preparedness, institutional delivery, importance of safe delivery and breastfeeding. She accompanies pregnant women to health centres for antenatal check-up, delivery and postnatal check-up and mobilises people to facilitate them in accessing health related services including medical care for minor ailments and new born care.

Parbati is among hundreds of other Asha workers whom Plan India is striving to empower so that they can bring an impact in the health outcomes of the people in their communities.

To know about Plan India response on COVID19 click here

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.