As a new Club, SI Pune Metro East (SIPME) was brimming with enthusiasm, to go out there into the community and connect with young girls. This was in June 2010, six months after our Charter. As a Founder President I wanted to harness that excitement towards a project that would involve skills of a lot of members.
On the other side was a yearning need to reach out to young girls in the community all of who were probably going to high school, college or were school dropouts. There were these huge blanks in their education that we could fill in a non-formal way. They came from disadvantaged backgrounds and were all first generation learners. Their mothers were mostly domestic maids, working in several homes to eke out a living, their fathers were mostly labourers, farmers with small holdings, part time handymen or petty shopkeepers. Neither parent was educated, or if they were only enough to put their signatures. Their home environment was often full of violence, deprivation and a sense of frustration for the young girls.
SIPME has members who are teachers, trainers, doctors, a tax consultant, a psychologist and counselors and members good with craft. We designed sessions of about 45 minutes with the facilitators. Our members were going to volunteer their skills and time. Depending on the need we had 4 modules in one day or modules spread over 2 days. All the girls were given certificates of participation. Each workshop was attended by 20-25 young girls.
The language of instruction was Hindi and Marathi (the local language of the state) often a mixture of both. Our topics were:
Home Budgeting - they probably never seen the inside of a bank or a bank cheque book. They have never had money of their own. But with the education they would get some job and when married would be able to plan their own expenditure.
Personal Hygiene and Grooming - menstruation and any allied issues - are never spoken to girls at school or at home. We were giving them a lots of inputs on this, the need to stay clean and be well groomed with little effort.
Anger Management - the girls were given tips and ways to break the constant circle of violence and acrimony of their homes to improve the home environment. Interpersonal skills help to improve their social consciousness.
Breast Cancer Awareness, Pre - marital Counseling, Nutrition, Yoga First Aid and Life Skills were some of the other areas addressed. None of these practical topics are taught in schools and they have little input from their illiterate mothers. We encouraged the girls to be interactive. SIPME was filling in the gaps in their knowledge and empowering them with practical skills and information.
We ended each workshop with a craft or something the girls would enjoy doing with their hands. For example - painting earthen lamps for the festival season, making cards, making gauze flowers, and teabag craft. All the material was provided by the Club, and there was something to carry home.
We were humbled by the appreciation of the participants. They felt very important because we were spending our time teaching them something. They sensed our care. With just little effort from member facilitators we empowered them with this non formal education that made a world of difference. This would surely enable them to cope with real life in a better way. Here we were putting our own education to good use- in the most rewarding way.
SIPME had set a target of 4 workshops a year and we have completed twelve in 3 years. We were supported for the first year with donations from SI Truckee Meadows(SIA) which is one of our Friendship Link Clubs. In the New Year we plan to refresh the workshops, redesign each session and look at novel ways bring positive change in the lives of women and girls.