|Sue & I talking about GEN's work|
|Rachna, Sue and Vinod with the girls|
|Discussions with the village|
So, how do you change the minds of whole villages?
First, you have to speak to them and find out about their issues, what bothers them and what they feel they need and create a relationship with the community. There is no point going directly into a village and telling them what you think their issues are when they don’t even know you. Unless you can read minds to know exactly what they are thinking of, they won’t care about what you say (even if it’s completely true!) and will probably take you for the village idiot or the local joker at best!
Plus, “people sell to people” and relationships are important, even (more so!) in community work. One still has to be able to “sell” (a new idea, a new concept, a change of some kind) as everyone is interested in “profit”. In community work, I call it “social profit” – for me, this is a community’s <what’s-in-it-for-me> unasked question and in order to work with them productively we have to find the balance between what we think is “good change” and what they want.
|Girls from the village|
Vinod and his team from EP initially went into 5 different villages and spoke to villagers to find out what their needs and issues were. He formed relationships with the locals, particularly the people whose opinions and advice others respected and followed in the village. He then encouraged them to form Village Development Groups (VDGs) of about 10 members – one in each village, made up of people thought highly of from that village, who were willing to work with EP in tackling the needs and issues identified in the initial surveys.
So far so good, but by this point EP and GEN still haven’t brought up the issue around girl’s education, let alone change the villagers’ minds about it...
that your word is worth something! First things first – people won’t care about a few girls’ education until at least some of their basic needs are met, so you address these first - it’s often a way into the community and an easy quick win! So in March 2010 Vinod, Sue and their teams organised a stakeholder meet for all the VDGs and local leaders (around 70 people) to get to know each other better, and to do more work on identifying village priorities and plans and explore how these could be met.
With GEN's support, EP also organised two eye camps where nearly 800 people, including children, had eye examinations, sight tests, were given glasses as required and were checked for cataracts. Then 70 people, mostly elderly villagers, underwent successful cataract surgery. Now, how’s that for a first promise kept?!
|Girls with Teacher in the village|
Having got villagers' agreement to proceeding with the girls' education project, members from the VDGs helped recruit village women with some education as teachers to deliver the training to nearly 30 girls in each village.
Fourth – Methodology and Approach (The HOW)
Most things in life that truly work are about the proper approach and methodology: it’s often not what you say, but THE WAY you say it!
|Learning in this class is engaging|
- deliver basic literacy and numeracy which uses material from their village world;
- teach them about women’s health - because the teenage girls who participated are considered to be of marriage age in rural India,
- teach environmental education covering: tree planting, composting, tree garden development – because they all work and take care of households
- teach them new skills - sewing - so they can make clothes and other things for theirs and their families' needs
- use art as a creative contrast to the more rigorous work of literacy and numeracy and
- know your legal rights - in a community where others try to decide for you the most important things in life, it is quite an asset to know about your fundamental legal rights, your rights related to education, child marriage/dowry, parental property rights, Atrocity Act and so on.
|Sewing classes: learning and earning!|
A new and initially unplanned outcome is that the sewing skills learned by the girls have led to the development of them producing marketable craft work – bags, pouches, table mats and quilts – which can be sold thus bringing the girls an income, and reassuring their families that participation in the classes has been worthwhile. GEN provided funds for purchase of good quality materials, plus an opportunity for the girls to go and look at craft items produced by other village women. EP provided advice and guidance on how to produce desirable items for sale, and increasingly GEN and EP are helping to find marketing outlets both in nearby cities in India and in UK.
|Girls asked for dancing sessions|
|Quilt built by the girls in the village|
|Bags made by the girls|
- as a result of learning new sewing skills, the girls were able to create craft work (some bags and quilts) which generated income for them and their families
- the girls who have finished the 6 months course now asked for more advanced education and some of them have gone back to do the 6 months course again in a more senior position, helping the other student girls.
- as a result of the AGM where all the VDGs were brought together by GEN and EP, the MP (Member of Parliament) representative for the region spoke personally to members from all the villages involved and was able to bring practical changes into their villages which improved their quality of life (government installed water pumps and it is now looking at developing education committees in each village).
- other NGOs (non-governmental organisations) in India have asked GEN and EP to provide support as paid consultancy (thus generating income for these NGOs to do more work) so that they can replicate GEN & EP’s learning model
- now 15 more villages want education classes!