PRAYOG is thankful to Gopalganj District Administration: District Collector, Shri Rahul Kumar for constant support and encouragement, Education Department Officials at District, Block Education Officer, Kuchaikote and Teachers and children of Middle School Tulachapar and Badahara to have helped us in shaping this initiative
Our society has been patriarchal. Law gives every woman these rights in equal footage with a man but there is an abundance of people with conservative mindset who cannot digest of a woman standing in similar line as a man. And these are the people who would never allow a woman to enjoy her rights. Instead, what does a woman get back from this society? Only words of discouragement and setbacks.
Even before a girl is born, her struggles start. When in the mother’s womb till old age, she lives a fearful life throughout. When I was to enter this beautiful world, then my very own people had a wish for son and so they did sex determination. As soon as they knew that a daughter would be born, my own people agreed to terminate me before seeing this world. Even my mother and grandmother, who themselves are someone’s daughter, were in consensus. Somehow my fate was not to die and I entered this world happily, thinking “what a wonderful life lies ahead of me”. But this did not happen. I was not even able to stand well that devils started demolishing me in lieu of sweets and chocolates. Mother restrained my movement out of house since childhood, but later realized that I should get some education to ensure my marriage. Though the family allowed me to move out of home to school but mother reminded, “better be safe, you are entering into a dangerous world”. These words would pierce through my ears like a sharp knife, each time I would step out of my home. Somehow I completed high school and my parents thought that the education is now over, “she is not a boy that we should pursue her education, neither would she earn..so why to waste resources for her education”. So next was my marriage which could relieve them from me though I was not even in the shape of getting married. I wanted to study, I wanted to be self dependent but no one cared for what my thoughts were. And why would have they asked me anything, after all I was a daughter only and I didn’t have the freedom to decide on my future. My life has always been on the verge of decisions by other people, this resulted into shattering of my yet another dream. I was married as a child, I cried a lot and my mother remained a mute spectator. I will not blame her, rather would blame the entire society which just objectifies women, women to be used and thrown.
Post marriage, at my husband’s place, I thought that life here would be safe and I can study now. But the condition here was worse and I was humiliated every day for dowry. They attempted to burn and kill me and the first person to try was my husband, who had taken a oath in front of everyone to be with me during my times of happiness and sorrows. And when I survived of this, I again went under agony of giving birth to a girl child, so much so that I now start thinking to end my life along with my daughter. But still, my prayers for my husband continue.
A woman’s patience is considered as the biggest weakness by this society and hence everybody plays with her life insanely. When a woman survives all the agonies of childhood and adult age of hers, she now thinks in the old age that she is now safe, nobody can harm her physically or mentally. She is so wrong even at this time. The son whom she might have thought would take care of her in the old age is now mature and has learnt all the skills from this society. He now turn out to be brutal and starts harassing her, beating her up whenever she raises the demands for her old age.
My only prayer to God, if I there is rebirth, give me an animal’s body but never mould me into a woman’s body. For if I go through this life cycle in an animal’s body, it would be fine as animal’s do not know what is good or bad. But living an animal’s life in a human body gives pain and shatters dreams. To hell with this society which has created boundaries for women. I only pray to you God, please do not shape me as a daughter in my next birth".
A few days ago, I went to the bank to make the first salary transfer of four staffs of PRAYOG. During the process, the Bank Manager whom I know because of a common friend, asked me: “these days you guys (NGOs) must be getting crores of money in the Ganga cleaning program, good days for you”. I usually do not reply instantly but the words came instantly, “Sir, those who work for crores, their works are not even worth lakhs and we have barely put in a couple of lakhs but our work is worth Crores”. Everybody started laughing!
It was an amazing day for me and just a thought that these four youths were doing nothing in their villages, and today we have enabled them to earn respect from the community and they are also able to keep themselves financially strong. I had seen many boys and girls wasting their youth in unproductive works in the villages and girls often been ignored towards education. Our facilitators are learning new things each day and we believe that it is only the rural youth who can bring in change.
We all talk about change, but I always think what is this change about? Change the existing scenario in learning, behaviour, income, lifestyle and what not. We wish to change this world and then again after few years, think to change the changed world. A few days ago, I was looking through a website where some NGOs are members for linkages and was surprised to see the name of a very good NGO who wish were just helpless in their introduction. They had to stop the senior classes for girls education because of paucity of funds and were almost helpless to continue their current level of junior classes. Now, since PRAYOG also aims for education and runs mainly through my own earnings and some fundraising, I was seriously worried. We are also working for a change and what happens if I die tomorrow or some like minded people stop contributing. It takes a hell to get a rupee out of someone’s pocket and how long only a few supporters would keep worrying for the cause. Eventually, the day we stop worrying for this change, everything stops. But should it stop? Should the children in resource deprived areas not get the same level of education and exposure?
Should they not dream?
In less than two years, the biggest change that we have brought is hope. Children look at us curiously, they wait for us, they write for us, they pray for us and what not that motivates the entire team a lot. We have done just done ordinary work: we are just reading the minds of these children and enabling them to do what they wish to do, what they wish to learn, what they wish to unlearn. The two biggest recent achievements have been getting associated with Prajnopaya Foundation and Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital.
While Prajnopaya Foundation is more about technology oriented model for early education amongst kids between 3 – 8 years of age. For the past one month, 50 children have been playing and learning with these apps, the initial phase just to enable them learn basic English, Maths and desire to explore. This is a part of the Global Literacy Project.
What Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital has been doing is incredible for the people of Bihar and north India. The power of bringing in vision into someone’s eye not just ensures the happiness but also their livelihoods. And most of them is done free of cost. When I first visited the hospital at Mastichak two years ago, I was overwhelmed to see young Bihari girls taking charge at the hospital. I have studied at an IIT and have visited a few IIMs and I am not wrong if I say that the auditorium and library at AJEH is better than those. Leave about the infrastructure (that exists in a typical village in Bihar’s Saran district, commonly referred as Chapra), the vision is so empowering. They aim to eradicate all sorts of curable blindness by 2020 and women to actively participate in this process. I was ecstatic when Mritunjay Tiwary, the founder, told me one fine day that girls from Prayog can be a part of this change. All they need to have is the willingness to play football and parents commitment to send their daughters into the AJEH hostel for eight to ten years. They would pursue a B.Sc in optometry and finally emerge as role models in their field! In return, AJEH shall cover all the cost. Well, the big news is that 10 girls from Prayog, all between Class VI – IX, are going to be a part of this change. The girls are excited, their parents are excited, I am excited and the community in confusion! “How can someone do this free of cost?” Well, nothing to worry. People learn with examples and there are quite a handful of such examples around us, people like Mritunjay are creating examples for the generation next!
All these experiences in past couple of years have made me strong and think more practically. Though, there is no standard procedure of being ‘practical’. The charity mode is weaning out of my head now. I am not a millionaire, I am not so well connected, I have left my job to pursue Prayog full time but above all I am a believer in doing. I believe, what happens is for good and what shall happen will also be good. In this phase of nurturing an initiative, many people set promises: few keep their words and most forget. But, why should any initiative depend on any promise of an external person who was impacted by the work for fraction of a second. Fortunately, I know some people who have started the process of change and because of whom I have self belief.
Prayog is two now and am proud of what changes we have been able to bring in the lives of hundreds of children. I have started to believe that any such initiative should go sustainable and the dependency on others to run the initiative should be minimized. May be ten years or twenty years down the line, we would like to be a role model NGO who are sustainable and have created substantial opportunities for youth. This would be the real change for us!
Human brain is such that so many thoughts revolve around on a daily basis. And these depend upon the ‘milieu’. Thoughts develop with exposure to the world be it reading, watching movies and documentaries, attending lectures, hearing stories, going out to see the real world and many more. At PRAYOG, we are helping to shape and construct the thoughts of children. It was during one of the interactions, we learnt that so many children lose the time to darkness and have to depend only on daytime for studies. Even those who could manage through kerosene lamps are prone to health hazards.
And so, a couple of months ago we designed an initiative Light An Ignited Mind, whereby we would provide solar study lamps to 200 of our children. These lamps being more efficient and are multi purpose.
No words can spell out the feelings that we underwent, ours is an initiative that has been run from pocket and arranging for 200 solar lamps became a challenge. It was no easy task but it was the commitment for the initiative that helped us ahead. The story of initial solar study lamp is something that is going to be with us forever. In a morning walk at Patna zoo, when discussed this with Prof. Rajeshwar Mishra, an ex-Prof of AN Sinha Institute of Social Sciences, his words were encouraging and said that this is possible. Just 3 hours later, he calls: “I want to donate 50 solar lamps on the occasion of my grand daughter’s first birthday”. This was a moment of pride, at that moment it was a relief as someone very close to the initiative volunteered and the sheer numbers. But when you actually think upon this, he has contributed not only towards lighting the nights of 50 children but also towards the future and happiness of his grand daughter, he wants her to be connected to people and not to be carried away in this materialistic world. This is such a noble thought. His grand daughter is an American citizen.
And there was no looking back, Through the help of friends and many unknown people who are now friends, and the support of Milaap and The Better India, we managed to reach our target of 200 solar study lamps. We had budgeted for a low cost lamp but went ahead and purchased a branded Tata Diva solar study lamp (courtesy the additional support of Prof. Mishra).
So, we distributed 50 solar lamps on October 19th to children between 3-8 years of age and 115 solar lamps on October 23. This time it was given to 71 children who are being groomed through write ups and 44 of children between 3-8 years who shall be a part of Global Literacy Project. The remaining 35 would be given soon.
For PRAYOG, this is our vision and we want to explore the behaviour of children and their tendency to help others. It is only after ensuring this, we can think of building a meaningful society.
A real hard worker he is…
One fine day, people told me that a young lad comes to the library and teaches children. I was very happy but at the same time wanted to confirm that he doesn’t use this platform for tuitions or making money. When I first interacted with him, I was highly impressed. He had once seen our night class for these children and that impressed him so much that he wanted to teach the children, then onwards.
This is Vijay Kumar Chauhan, a 22 year old extremely talented and laborious guy who is now an active volunteer at PRAYOG. Vijay’s dedication is such that he prefers giving time to children of the village, designs teaching sessions on his own, conducts competitions, quizzes etc to keep the children motivated.
What started as an initiative on June 15th, 2013 with 5 children and 4 motivated souls and guided by an ex – Prof, Rajeshwar Mishra, is now taking a shape!
Prayog’s efforts has been applauded in News Bench’s (http://newsbench.in/) August 2014 issue in the ‘Positive India’ section.
Thank you children, thank you friends and thanks to News Bench team for featuring our efforts in this wonderful new magazine! The journey has just started and we are ready to face all the odds and reach our destiny, someday.
We shall overcome, definitely!
Today is World Environment Day! Thank you mother earth for giving me such a pleasurable place to stay. Though, I strongly feel that I couldn’t return you even a bit. Let me share one of my major mistakes, which I am forced to commit but because of certain factors.
I stay in Patna and often visit a district named Gopalganj which is ~ 200 kms from here. In doing so, I burn my pockets as well as one of your precious non-renewable resource, petroleum. It takes 30 litres of petrol for a to and fro journey. But, this is wasted not because of comfort but mainly because of the lack of basic transportation facility. I kept on doing this but couldn’t realize this till one fine Sunday a gentleman from Delhi asked me to suggest a route from Patna to Gopalganj by public transport. Instead, my suggestion was centred around hiring a taxi while the gentleman urged to suggest a train route.
Now, just listen to the difficulty a common man has to face in trying to reach there in this era. There is no rail connectivity between our state capital (Patna) and almost all of the 9 districts of north-west Bihar. So, I need to travel to Hajipur, crossing the Ganges over a rickety Gandhi Setu bridge (any stranger feels the trauma but for we Biharis, it is a matter of pride to say that many a times it takes 6 hours or more to cross a ~ 6 km bridge!! So, proud of our patience) whose repair work is on for last 5 years or more and probably a new bridge could have been constructed during this period. If I am lucky, I board a train in which I booked my ticket else board any train to Siwan. An express train takes 2.5-3 hours to reach Siwan. From Siwan, I get local buses plying to Gopalganj over a road that the bus would play a see-saw. After reaching Gopalganj, I need to travel another 24 kms to reach my final destination at Prayog site. So, then I need to change for local transport and the quality of the roads as well as the ease with which the local passengers are picked and dropped, it takes another 2 hours to cover this distance. Wow, if I am lucky, I would cover this 200 kms in a super exciting 10 hours by public transport!
Now comes the train route. I am surprised why have the people not revolted against the poor train connectivity? Why has an ex railway Minister, Sri Lalu ji couldn’t do much? 4 out of 38 districts in Bihar have not been connected to any major rail route and Gopalganj is one of them. The Britishers layed a web of rail connectivity in the district/region because of sugar factories but we couldn’t convert this ahead. People from Gopalganj are forced to travel to a neighboring district, Siwan or Gorakhpur (in Uttar Pradesh) to catch a train! Come on Indian Railways, this is the 21st century India and how come a district headquarter (since 1976) not have a railway junction even??? The narrow gauge existed since pre-independence, the broad gauge came in (2-3 years ago)…but why couldn’t we here have a junction?? Who decides for establishing a junction and connecting to major rail links??
When in 2012, Gaurav Travels started a Mercedes Benz bus service (under Bihar State Road Transport Corporation undertaking) to Gorakhpur via Gopalganj, I was so happy. Alas, this could barely last a couple of months. Reason, NH 28 that connects Lucknow to Barauni in Bihar, and the initial 45 kms section from UP –Bihar border falling in Gopalganj district was in the turmoil. It still is. This is a 4 lane highway but looking at the 45 km section one can easily say, there is a road in the potholes!
Now, mother…tell me, what should I do? Should I travel this distance wasting 10 hours of my time and with no 24 hours public transport facility. If I need to start in the evening from Gopalganj, I shall be trapped and would have to waste another 12 hours during the return journey in addition to the travel time.
I want to save you and I want to save money, but Governance is not allowing me. Ask your other eligible children to take care of this! Hope, next Environment Day I would be sharing another story of change…good or bad, only time to reveal.
A big thanks to Jaspreet Mahal and Dadasaheb Tandale for being such wonderful volunteers at PRAYOG, this Sunday. Both of them are associated with CARE India for a health program in Bihar. Jaspreet had earlier planned to visit PRAYOG but could not come due to sudden other professional commitments. It was Dadasaheb’s second visit to us.
Follow the snaps to traverse their interaction with children. Girls were really fascinated by her presence and there were arguments and discussions on:
“Whether a girl should step out of her home”?
There was an argumentative discussion between the volunteers and children, especially girls who were in favour of the above statement as this is what has been told/instructed by their grandparents. There were some traditional statements which actually came out of a folk song,
“Chahe beti kitni pyaari ho, usey ghar ghar ghumana na chahiye; chahe patni kitni pyari ho usey har baat batana na chahiye” Howsoever dear the daughter may be, she should not be left to go over places; howsoever dear the wife may be, she should not be told any secrets of the household]. Sanya, a bright girl seconded this with a story that was narrated once to her by an elderly of the village to prove this right.
These are the notions that have been constructed over hundreds of years and there needs to be a mechanism to break them. When they were asked to reveal whether their mothers/grandmothers went to school, most of them nodded their head for ‘no’. And what about you, asked Dada. They unanimously said, we go to school and will also pursue higher education. It was then they suddenly realised that how irrelevant the folk song was towards their dreams and aspirations.
There were sessions on songs, both by children and volunteers. Children showed their paintings that they had made sitting at PRAYOG’s library. Towards the end, the girls began to realize that their priority should be on freedom of thoughts as well!