Community Development Through Empowerment of Rural Indian Girls

10 February 2015

It always seems impossible until it’s done-Nelson Mandela


The impossible became possible through education and training. Reluctant to send their daughters

to school initially, inhabitants of Anupshahr, one of the most backward districts of Bulandshahar in

the state of Uttar Pradesh, have seen a sea change in the community through the education of girls

provided by Pardada Pardadi School. Presently there are over 1200 students from 62 villages in the

school

A visit to the Pardada Pardadi Educational Society(PPES) programme and interaction with the girl

students who exuded positivity, gregariousness, confidence and happiness left a lasting impression.

Rahul and I were slightly taken aback when we spoke in Hindi with the girls but got responses like “good

afternoon sir/mam”, “what’s your name,” “where are you from” in perfect English. Most of these girls

belong to some of the most socially deprived communities of the area but free education and job

opportunities have made a large number of rural girls and women self-sustaining.



First we came across Gulshan, a speech and hearing impaired worker at the Production Unit for making

BlackBerry suit bags. It was inspiring to know that she is one of the fastest workers, despite her

physical challenges. As part of the economic empower programme of Pardada Pardadi various other

products such as cushion covers, pillow covers, bed covers, purses, saris, dupattas and coasters are

also produced besides the BlackBerry bags and are sold at stores both internationally and in the country.

The Unit is run in partnership with BlackBerry India and manufactures 8000 suit bags per month for the

company. Each girl is paid Rs 5 per bag and gets paid for the number of bags that she is able to produce.

Work which was earlier considered to be a male domain has been easily taken up by females.




Then Asha’s story of education and empowerment was truly inspirational. She belonged to one of

the first batch of students to pass out in 2006 and continued her higher education outside the school.

Now she works as a counselor at the school, counseling dropout students and their families on the

importance of education and tries to convince them to join back. She proudly mentioned that she was

able to voice her opinion about wanting to marry an educated and supportive man who would allow her

to work after marriage.



We wound up meeting other family members of Asha on a visit to her parental home and heard some

more motivating stories. Priyanka, Asha’s neice got an opportunity to study in Bangalore at the Nettur

Technical Training Foundation(NTTF) and then further train at the TATA Steel Company in Jharkhand.

Asha has set a precedent to study and work for other girls in her family and the community.

PPES’s commitment to health and hygiene could be seen at the health centre, which was clean and

bright and equipped with basic necessities where two doctors and a nurse were busy examining

patients. The doctors visit weekly to cater to any health ailments of the girls, while the nurse is present

daily at the clinic. Eye check-ups, dental examinations and vaccinations are provided through the health

centre.

It was also encouraging to know that girls are also taught basic self- hygiene like bathing, brushing teeth,

combing their hair, etc at the school. The school also has a sanitary napkin manufacturing unit where

low cost napkins are manufactured by the girls and then provided to students as well as teachers and

the community at a subsidized rate. The school contributed 4000 napkins to the Jammu and Kashmir

flood victims this year.

Toilets and showers have been built in the villages for the use of the villagers. Usually after a girl passes

out of school a toilet is built in her house which all family members can use. Tips on health and hygiene

are passed on to the community through these girls as they are themselves very motivated to go and

teach others about it.



Besides being taught embroidery, applique work and computers, the students are also taught how to

prepare meals and serve them in a hygienic manner. Some of them were busy serving the mid-day meal

which is provided to the students along with two other snacks during the course of the day.

Next on the agenda was attending a meeting of community women of the dairy micro-enterprises

best practice programme. The local women were into the 4th

they were being trained on how to take proper care of their milk producing cattle namely cows and

buffaloes, increase milk production through proper feed, etc. We also visited the Bharatiya Agro Industy

Foundation Animal Development Centre where we were briefed on how artificial insemination to

increase the production of milk in animals was done.



Then we met some more community women at a meeting of Women’s Self Help group. Groups of 10

women save a small amount of money each day and put it into a kitty which is rotated amongst them.

Whoever keeps the kitty at home is accountable. They also inter loan the money at a certain interest

to other women. The amount has to be returned when the next monthly meeting takes place. This has

empowered the women, teaching them basic financial recording, self- reliance, and helps then lead a

life of dignity and self- respect in addition to proving then with an alternate livelihood. The organization

wants to create a new model of alternate livelihood for women which are sustainable and scalable over

a period of time.



Finally a visit to the Solar Lantern charging station at the locality of Madargate where the incharge

briefed us about the solar lanterns provided to villagers at a rental. Since most of Anupshahr gets only

a few hours of electricity supply in the day, these solar lanterns have now made it easier for children

to study in the home as well as for adults to use the light while doing their chores, thus reduce health

hazards from using kerosene and firewood.



This is a truly laudable initiative of empowerment of rural girls and the community and should be

replicated!


Anuja Upadhyay

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