Archives: Case Studies

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.

Arvind and team’s responsiveness saved many lives

Arvind and his friends from the Youth Advisory Panel (YAP) had a huge task at hand when they heard from the government officials that the embankment near their village – Pakri, had broken.

Arvind and his friends from the Youth Advisory Panel (YAP) had a huge task at hand when they heard from the government officials that the embankment near their village – Pakri, had broken. Pakri is a nondescript village in Muzaffarpur district in Bihar where agriculture is the main source of livelihood

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“As soon as we heard from the officials, we quickly took out our motorbikes and started alerting nearby villages. The district administration had sounded off the flood alarm, but villagers were still not ready to leave their homes,” said Arvind.

On August 14 2017, the embankment near Pakri village broke; waters gushed into the village and within no time devastated the whole area. A part of the primary school caved in, creating panic among teachers and students. They had to be evacuated within minutes…

Speaking about his engagement as a YAP member, Arvind shares, “Attending the trainings and meetings helped us in evacuating people and save lives. We guided them to higher grounds and quickly sealed off the primary school as people have a tendency to take refuge in permanent structures.”

“Cattle is not just livelihood for us, they are treated as part of the family. While we were evacuating people, they insisted on getting their cattle, which was a huge challenge for us,” shares Seema, another youth mobiliser from Pakri.

“We are also working with the ANMs (Auxiliary Nurse Midwives) and Anganwadi Helpers to spread awareness about trafficking. Young girls and women are most vulnerable during crises situations. With the help of ANM didis (as they are fondly called), we are spreading awareness and are playing an active role in sensitising our village elders,” she added.

Youth Advisory Panel is a group of selected youths from the project areas of Plan India in Bihar. They play a huge role in planning and implementing programmes apart from regular monitoring. The YAP members are trained and capacitated and act as empowered youths who work towards the benefit of their community. In Pakri village, the YAP consists of 16 youths, amongst which, there are 5 girls.

Passing through the flood ravaged villages, one can feel the pain, and sufferings that the community is enduring. While waters will recede with time, the overcast sky worries the people, they cannot afford another day of rain – they have lost enough! They are eagerly waiting to get back to their houses, inspect what remains, what’s gone.

When the dust settles, they would need to think about livelihoods, rebuild houses….a long road to recovery.

Written by Debanjana Choudhuri, Manager, Marketing and Communications

Breaking down the barriers for girls

Palika is 20 years of age and lives in a rural village located in Bihar. She is an active and well known youth agent.

Palika (name changed) is 20 years old and lives in a rural village in Bihar. She is an active and well known youth champion.

Palika’s association with Plan India began eight years ago when she joined a Children’s Club. She explained that before joining the club, she was very shy to speak out, “Whatever I was facing, I thought it was part of my life. Afterwards, I realised that this was not part of my life and these were issues that had to be overcome.”

In Bihar, girls are generally married off early, unprepared to bear the marital and childbearing responsibilities put upon them. Her village is particularly isolated, surrounded by mountains with only around 35 households. Additionally, due to the lack of educational and livelihood opportunities, child labour, child marriage and child trafficking are constant issues. Palika felt impelled to tackle the issue of child marriage in her community.

She managed to get support from her friends and the Plan Youth Advisory Panel (YAP). Palika went from door to door advocating for girls’ rights. Inevitably, she faced many challenges from her community; gender discrimination was so prevalent that her village would not listen to what she had to say. At 14 years, her own parents decided that they wanted to get her married but she raised her voice and successfully fought against their decision. Since then, she has worked with district officials and through ChildLine (1098 tele helpline for nationwide support to children in distress), prevented 12 child marriages!

Palika also found support from Dainik Jagran, one of India’s most read newspapers, who covered her story. ETV Bihar, a news channel also decided to report on her, which reached a wide audience. In 2015, Palika was elected as a state representative for the National Youth Advisory Panel.

Despite having already achieved so much and bringing about so much positivity, Palika wants to do more. “I want to dedicate my life to bring about change!” she says with confidence and determination in her voice.

Saina’s perseverance helped her reclaim her life

Saina is a confident young lady who makes a living as a beautician. She has hopes of setting up her own beauty parlour in the future

Saina is a confident young lady who makes a living as a beautician. She has hopes of setting up her own beauty parlour in the future. Her ambitions about the future were never so assured in the past though.

“I think I was 3 or 4 years old when I heard the first comments from a relative, ironically also a female. She was lamenting that my mother had three daughters and that was such a huge burden. My poor mother was bending her head as if it was her fault,” says Saina, who has two sisters and two brothers. Her father, a painter, barely earned enough to feed his family of seven and her mother was constantly on her feet to ensure some semblance of order in their severely underprivileged life.

“I’ve seen my mother drinking water because there was nothing left for her after feeding us. I would ask her why she didn’t eat along with us and she would say she wasn’t hungry or at times that she had an upset stomach. At that age, I believed her. As I grew up, I understood the real reason. After that, whenever she said she wasn’t hungry, my sisters and I would also say we weren’t hungry. We wouldn’t eat until she joined us.”

Life went on as it did in the household. As Saina and her sisters grew, other issues started to arise. “Everybody would scare my mother saying that good looking girls needed to be kept in control or they would bring disgrace to the family. While my brothers passed their exams with great difficulty, we scored high marks and passed our school final exams with a good percentage. We would help our mother with household chores and then study. Whereas our brothers just had to focus on their studies. Yet, we girls were not allowed to go to college after we completed Class XII. My younger sisters were still in school and I was getting restless. I was itching to do something constructive. I couldn’t pressurise my parents to send me to college because I knew the financial situation. But I wanted to do something, find some way to make my life better by doing something productive with my free time. That’s when the Saksham mobilisation team knocked on our door. When I heard what they had to say, it felt like God had answered my prayers. They convinced my parents that they should let me pursue what I wanted. It was an easy decision for them to make in the end since it was free and included a class that was exclusively for girls, including finding employment in a company that was for women.”

Life dramatically changed for Saina when she enrolled in the project in October 2017 for the beautician’s course. “I was timid to begin with. I would barely raise my head leave alone look into the eyes of people I spoke to. But Saksham brought me out of my shell. Gradually, I opened up as I began following their instructions and advice. I put my heart and mind into the course and passed with good marks because I knew this was my chance to build my life.”

Saina now works as a beautician and earns INR 10,000 a month. “My mother was my only support and now she’s extremely proud of me. I want to do well in my career and give everything to my parents and my sisters that I never had. I’m focussed on my work and achieving everything I dreamt of. During my training, I also learned to manage my time and money. It gave me a lot of clarity. I see myself owning a successful beauty parlour in the future. Until then, I told my parents I am not interested in marriage. I reclaimed my life thanks to the Saksham programme. Life seems normal now. I feel lighter and more in control of my circumstances. Now, I feel good about being a girl. I have no words to express my gratitude.”