New Delhi - October - December 2001
Students Raise Funds
Grade VI students of the American Embassy School in New Delhi helped Deepalaya's fundraising by selling nearly 10,000 Deepalaya Greeting Cards! And students of the British School donated nearly 14,000 rupees. "We taught them how to do business, the costing and accounts and the entire process involved in making and selling products", says Ms. Acharya, their teacher. The students made cards, wrapping paper and other gift items and sold it on the Open Day. The group decided unanimously to donate the profit to Deepalaya.
Every year Deepalaya awards one of its employees for his/her outstanding performance. This year Mr. Beer Bahadur Pandey, office attendant at Deepalaya School Sanjay Colony, was selected for his politeness, sincerity, excellent behaviour towards customers and staff, meticulous record keeping, co-operative attitude and overall devotion to his work. A special commendation was presented to Ms. Shikha Pal, principal of Deepalaya School Kalkaji Extension, for her leadership, commitment, loyalty, dependability and ability to run the school.
"It was great fun!" says Sonu Ghagra. Sonu enjoyed the Poetry Competition held on 18th October at Ramditti JR Narang Deepalaya School (South Delhi). "This is the first time such an event is organized. With the competition we want to develop the children's confidence and skills", says Ms Gitanjali Krishnan, administrator at the school.
The competition was for all classes. Three children from each class recited English poetry with actions. "I admire the efforts made by the children and the teachers. Extra-curricular activities like this are a good encouragement for these children - it brings out their hidden talents", stated Ms Prerna Bhargava of Youth Reach, one of the judges.
Award For Wounded Childhood
Are South Indian women the best writers on child rights? It looks like it, because for the third year in a row, the Deepalaya Award for Child Rights has gone to a female journalist from a southern state - this year to Kerala. Award winner is Ms. K.R. Meera of the daily paper Malayala Manorama.
The members of the Award Jury were unanimous in their judgement, according to Mr. Sanjoy Hazarika, columnist and author, and chairman of the Jury. "We have selected Ms. Meera for her consistent, detailed and sensitive writing in her series The Wounded Childhood, about the pain and trauma of child abuse and curtailment of child rights." The Jury also appreciated the work of Mr. Manoj Nair of Mid-Day, a daily paper from Mumbai, for his series "The Vanishing Girl Child", which studied in-depth the problem of runaway girls.
On Monday 19th November, the Award was presented at a function at the YMCA Auditorium in New Delhi. Ms. Meera received the award prize of Rs 21,000/- sponsored by Asianet, a citation and a trophy from the Chief Guest Mr. Javed Akhtar, eminent scriptwriter, poet and lyricist.
Help For PM's Neighbours
Since August this year, Deepalaya is working at the Urban Renewal Project in a slum community near the Race Course in New Delhi. This slum is located right opposite the Prime Minister's Residence. The main focus of the project is to improve urban conditions like housing, drainage, sewage and waste disposal.
It is an exceptionally old slum location, existing from 1913 onwards. There are some 523 huts in the slum, which house around 4,000 people. More than half of the inhabitants belong to the so-called scheduled castes and backward classes. The majority of them work at the Race Course as jockeys, horse keepers, trainers and office staff. In the community there are two stables with over 500 horses.
The problems in the slum settlement are huge: housing, drainage, sewage, water supply, sanitation and waste disposal are all of very low quality. The houses get flooded in the rainy season, there are only a few toilets and water pumps, the drains and sewers are clogged, and there is only one waste disposal bin.
Deepalaya has been called in to improve conditions. Mr. Tapan Choudhury, programme officer: "The aim of this project is to develop a vision for the urban renewal of this settlement. We also converge resources trough a combination of community, corporate and state financing. Moreover, we use the traditional and economic strengths specific to this community."
The Deepalaya team has finished the feasibility study: a list of all the existing problems and the proposed interventions. This proposal has to be approved by the Technology Information, Forecasting & Assessment Council (TIFAC), the government institution that finances the project.
The community people are happy with Deepalaya's work. Choudhury: "We made many visits to the settlement for rapport building and establishing key contacts. We formed fifteen committees that will help in the house-to-house surveys and mapping of the community. The people are very co-operative and positive."
Are girls in India treated like bonsai trees? Carefully pruned by their gardener and prevented from attaining full potential? That was one of the questions raised during a seminar on Girl Child Education & Empowerment. Deepalaya hosted this seminar on 22nd October in the India International Centre, New Delhi. It was a successful meeting in which the participants exchanged different views on the subject.
Dr. Rama, Gender Advisor at the Royal Danish Embassy, introduced the "S Concept". She explained that the letter S usually depicts words that hint at the inferior status of women, for instance Selfless, Susceptible and Scared. Her concept was only one of the many interesting views, expressed by the speakers at the seminar on Girl Child Education and Empowerment. The seminar was supported by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
Twenty different NGOs were present, as well as representatives from renowned government institutions like the National Institute of Public Cooperation & Child Development and the Directorate of Social Welfare. Moreover, members of communities where Deepalaya runs its Girl Child Project and Deepalaya staff participated. The speakers at the seminar shared their views on the subject from the psychological and legal perspective, the NGO's and social workers' perspective and of course from the perspective of the girls themselves.
Deepalaya is convinced that girl child education is a significant means to change the traditional attitudes in Indian society towards women. Education of girls also instills hope, confidence, knowledge and awareness among them. That is why Deepalaya has always emphasised the importance of girl participation in education. Enrollment of girls in Deepalaya schools has increased from 12% in 1979 to nearly 50% today!
Kids Meet In Bhopal
Children from Deepalaya attended the Children's Meet, organised by Aide et Action in Bhopal. Aide et Action, a French funding partner of Deepalaya with its Indian regional office in the city of Bhopal, organises this interaction regularly to get their sponsor parents to meet with each other and share their experiences. This year's meet in November was focused on the theme Heritage and Environment. Fourteen Deepalaya School children presented a story from the Panchatantra (a collection of Indian fables). Five of them were differently abled children from the Special Unit. Needless to say, the children enjoyed it a great deal and won the accolade of all participants.
In the festive season around Diwali, melas (fairs) were held all over Delhi. Deepalaya took part in the Helpings Hands Mela - organised by HSBC Bank, the Sundar Nagar Mela and melas at the colleges Lady Shri Ram and Miranda House and at Mira Model School. "We had diyas, jute bags, greeting cards and stationery for sale. The response was good", says Ms Margaret Vasu of Deepalaya. "The melas not only raised funds but also gave us an opportunity to reach out to a varied population to enlist their support."
Concerns About Bill
Millions of Indian children are still out of school and do not have opportunities for education. For decades the constitutional obligation to free and compulsory education was deferred.
On 28th November, Indian Parliament unanimously passed the Constitution 93rd Amendment Bill, which declares education as a fundamental right for children between the age of 6 and 14.
The Bill does not include education for children below the age of 6, makes the parents - and not the State - responsible for the education of their children, and is silent on the question of quality and the definition of "free". Deepalaya expressed its concern about these lacunae in a two-day protest in Delhi, just before the Parliament session would take place. Staff members were part of a protest march, organised by an alliance of 2,400 NGOs. Some 70,000 people from fourteen states marched through the streets of the capital to protest against the proposed bill.
Despite this and despite efforts of some political parties to make amendments to the bill, nothing changed. A huge blow for advocacy forums like Campaign Against Child Labour and the National Alliance for the Fundamental Right to Education, of which Deepalaya is a member.
At 27th of November, a team from the renowned All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) visited Deepalaya School Sanjay Colony for a Disability Camp. Five doctors from the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation had come to the school grounds to examine people with a physical disability from the nearby slums. Ms Kiran Bala Singh, Chief Medical-Social Services Officer coordinated the examination by the AIIMS team: "We're here for the whole day to examine people with a orthopaedic handicap, for instance people who've had polio and those with an amputation or a partial paralysis. On the spot we issue Disability Certificates and Railway Certificates." With these certificates, disabled people get special discounts for train transport and other government services.
Deepalaya had set up an awareness campaign on the certificates in various South Delhi slum communities. Ms Hema Dwibashi, coordinator of Deepalaya's Disability Project, explains that she had to put in a lot of effort to persuade the AIIMS management to come to the slums: "They normally don't go out. Patients are supposed to visit their institute. However, I convinced the manager that this is a much swifter way for all the concerned people. Usually it takes the people four months to get the certificates. And they have to get up and down to AIIMS a few times. Now, they'll have their certificates within half an hour." Nearly a hundred people visited the camp and returned home with the cost-saving certificates.
A Look At The Future
In September and October, a core group of fifteen staff members from all over Deepalaya was engaged in a series of meetings to shape Deepalaya's strategic direction for the next five years. External consultant Mr. Prem Chadha facilitated this process. The proposed strategies were discussed with the funding partners in November.
The core group listed all of Deepalaya's activities and grouped them into five sectors. Education is the major sector. The others are: community health, gender equity, mainstreaming differently abled children, and institutional care for vulnerable groups like street children.
Then the core group formulated a new mission that includes all these sectors. With this mission, they developed strategies for the next five years. Some of these strategies are: branding and franchising the educational model and the social entrepreneur concept; strengthening the human resource development systems; establishing a documentation & research unit in order to become a resource and support organisation; and achieving organisational sustainability. This last strategy will include enhancing the independence of the core staff - the central support staff who work Deepalaya-wide, but are not budgeted in one specific project - and improving the fundraising capability.
In a meeting on the first two days of November, the core group presented the future strategies in a meeting to the major funding partners from India and abroad. In an open atmosphere, the participants discussed Deepalaya's aspirations. The funding partners agreed to most of them.
To The Editor
"I'm a postgraduate student at Lady Irwin College and I've been a trainee at Deepalaya for two months. I worked with the Communication Division and was directly and actively involved in the Reproductive Health Project. It was a very motivating experience to work with Deepalaya staff and talk to community people with whom they collaborate. I learned a lot from them and could explore the various dimensions of voluntary work. My placement with Deepalaya has been very satisfying and I look forward to keep the good relationship with the organisation in the coming years!" Swati Malik, New Delhi