Songs on Women’s Empowerment

Here are 4 songs. These Bengali songs form part of our village level campaign, by team SWADHINA ,  at times with small street plays. On this GANDHI JAYANTI we remember the large section of women who still have a long journey to make to reach towards living a life with equality and dignity.

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Fresh Vegetables at Doorstep: Organic Way

Kitchen Garden Promotion Programme of Swadhina

The train reached at Ghatsila station around 9 in the night. As soon as the train touched platform I could locate the smiling face of Laduram, waiving desperately at me. I waived back, assuring him that I too have located him. As soon as I got down at the platform, Laduram took from me the carry-bag and now I only have my shoulder

bag. We were all set for the little walk till we reach our destination – the local Swadhina camp office located near the daily village market (Haat). Swadhina, a voluntary organisation is working in this area of Jharkhand on a women’s empowerment and livelihood enhancement programme for the past many years now.  Laduram is the able field- organiser for Swadhina here.

After finishing the packed dinner, of chapati and vegetable curry procured from the local eatery , we spent a little time about the next day’s visit to the villages. My sole purpose of coming here was to visit the Household Vegetable Farming or Kitchen Garden Programme of Swadhina.

Next couple of days Laduram took me in villages around Ghatsila  in his over-used motorcycle ! It gives relatively more sound than speed, and, I anyway had no complains to make since I myself drive at a moderate pace ! At the end of the trip, with the help of the project documents I could gather many insights which are shared here.

IMG-20171128-WA0083Objective: The basic objective of the programme, supported by SARRA,  is to raise Kitchen Garden not only to have Food for All In The Home, but also to enhance nutrition intake in the family. It is also envisaged to promote organic way of farming, with organic fertilizers and organic pesticides. As a result this programme would

– Provide Food Security & Nutritional support to families using their available household land resources.
– Provide scope for local women to stake claim on family plots
– Change the attitude of the families and the society towards women’s land ownership
– Encourage land-based livelihood among communities. As a follow-up activity, efforts will be vested on encouraging people for seed preservation. The programme was facilitated by: SARRA, under ILC and implemented by: Swadhina

Activities3 participants from Swadhina participated in the Training of Trainers (TOT) organized by SARRA at Tirupathi last year4. Mr. Laduram Mahato , Ms. Yashoda Mardi and Ms. Karmi Kisku participated in the 3 day intense training programme on the Basics of Kitchen Garden preparation, Food and Nutrition through Kitchen Garden, preparation of organic composts for Kitchen Garden.

Later a 3 day Training Programme was organised at Ghatsila, East Singbhum in Jharkhand. The trainers who had attended the TOT, along with Resource Persons from Swadhina explained the process of kitchen garden preparation and organic fertiliser/pesticide preparation and usage, through charts/ posters/ Flash-Cards.  

Through socio-economic family survey, the field workers identified potential implementors of the Kitchen Garden programme. These women were chosen for the Kitchen Garden Training and trained accordingly.

The implementation of the gardens initially received a huge set-back as Jharkhand experienced a massive rainfall in the region continuously throughout August and September. The plots that were being identified and prepared couldn’t be developed as a result of the continuous rainfall. However work began with rapid ferocity as soon as the rainfall subsided. The families members supported the women in developing plots, applying primary layer of organic fertilizers (as prepared by the trainees of SARRA training). Fencing was given to all the plots.

Seeds of red amaranthus, pumpkin, green chillies, tomato, brinjal, ladies finger, and several variety of leafy-vegetables were provided to the women.

This programme has been taken up in four villages, covering 21 families who are mostly belonging to Scheduled Tribe and backward class communities in East Singbhum district in Jharkhand state.

SOME REFLECTIONS: -Though the families are yet to experience the direct benefits of food security and nutrition from the kitchen garden, the fact that they have an access IMG-20171128-WA0030to direct nutrition in their back or front yard is an exciting prospect for the beneficiaries.
– The trainings have convinced the local families of the benefits of organic farming, they have especially learnt to use local natural fruit and vegetable resources to prepare organic fertilizers at home itself.
– Earmarking a plot in the name of the woman of the family has given a strong message to the society about women’s land ownership. To the woman, it is her personal piece of land.
– Those who had successfully implemented FAITH Gardens earlier could set a very good example to others about the farming abilities of women. In the words of Karmi Kisku – “The quality of my produce was so good that my husband took tips from me on how to actually grow such vegetables. He and his friends used my technique and had a good produce”

 

Tears of Baby Tree

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এক গাছ-শিশুর কান্না  

কারা যেন পয়সা দিয়ে কিনে নিল মাকে, কাক ভোরে কারা যেন কেটে নিল তাকে,

আমার মা, আমার মা গো, কেউ কি পয়সা দিয়ে আবার মা কিনে নেয়,

কেউ কি পয়সা দিয়ে কারো মা কিনে দেয় |

 

মা যখন ছিল পাশে কত পাখি আসতো  উড়ে একটু বাসার আশে,

বাতাস এসে ভিড় জমাতো মায়ের সবুজ আঁচলে

কেউ কি পয়সা দিয়ে আবার মা কিনে নেয়,

কেউ কি পয়সা দিয়ে কারো মা কিনে দেয় |

 

কত পথিক বসতো এসে মায়ের মধুর মিষ্টি ছায়া ঘেঁষে

আগাছা ঘাসেরা শুতো  মায়ের বিশাল কোলে

কেউ কি পয়সা দিয়ে আবার মা কিনে নেয়,

কেউ কি পয়সা দিয়ে কারো মা কিনে দেয় |

 

বড় হবো আমিও যখন, ওরা আবার আসবে

আমার দুখে তোমরা কি কেউ চোখের জলে ভাসবে ?

বল ভাই, বল ভাই,

কেউ কি পয়সা দিয়ে আবার বোন কিনে নেয় !

১৯৯৪                          – দীপ্তেন্দু মুখোপাধ্যায়

* কচি কাঁচাদের “পরিবেশ শিক্ষা”র কাজে বিভিন্ন গ্রামে এটি ব্যবহৃত হয় |

গানটি শোনার জন্য ক্লিক করুনCLICK

 

Literacy Jatha:March at a Tribal Village for Literacy Promotion

Literacy “Jatha”- a “Jatha” is a March in which certain action is also accomplished along the way. Some times ago we, an NGO group organised a Literacy Jatha in a tribal village

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picture-326called “Majhidih”. The basic objective of the March was to spread awareness on the need to have a minimum literacy for all, and, also to teach women of the village ‘how to sign their names’. Since this was organised by an NGO working for women’s empowerment, the stress was to cover women in the village. Most of the women did know how to sign their names even. We were stressing on this because these days, they need to put their signatures for various reasons i.e. to open a Bank Account, to get govt. benefit schemes to become an effective member of Self Help Group and so on.

picture-319Majhidih literary means a Santhal Village i.e.” Majhi” means Santhal tribe, and, “dih” means a village.  This village is located amidst East Singbhum region of Jharkhand state in India. Jharkhand meaning “The Forest Land”, is a new state. There was a long time demand from the local Tribals – the Adivasis that they be given a separate state.  We are working in villages here on women and children development programmes since inception of this state.

Spending the night before at our camp office at Bondih we set out for the Majhidih village early morning in two bikes and a few bicycles. We also asked our village volunteers from neighbouring villages to assemble at the Majhidih village. It took about half an hour to reach the village for our bikes.  The cyclists also made it within that time limit, since they took short cut passage through forest. It was summer, the area is chronically drought prone, there was scorching heat emanating from the stony road, even though it was still early in the morning.

After reaching the village we made two teams. The men in the team were given the task of writing awareness slogans on the walls. The Santhal houses have mud walls, but, they are kept very clean and neat by pasting coloured mud regularly.There is particiularly a red soil available in the hills here which look very beautiful on walls.

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Writing on Wall: “I Want Education”

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“Must Learn How to Sign My Name”

The women in our team, joined by other village volunteers, took the charge of teaching signature writing to the village women.

Our March or the Jatha began.  While we took charge of the wall writing, the women, in small teams entered a few huts on both sides of the village road. The villagers were too enthusiastic to participate in this learning process. It was nice to see that while the women were busy trying to write their signatures on the paper, the menfolk in the house took care of the children. ( a rare scenario in Indian village context where bringing up a child is solely vested on women)

Once a cluster of 4 to 5 huts covered, the Jatha marched forward. At times we, the graffiti team were lagging behind to complete the our paint-brush task.

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The only reason I was treated differently was my tummy !

Around 3 p.m. we reached at the end of village. Here we had out lunch…. piping hot rice, lentil curry and a potato-brinjal curry…. served on Sal Leaves plates. It was tasty, and, in any case we were really hungry… we did not have a chance to break our fast (skipped the break fast !)

Our end of the Jatha was a cultural show, organised open-air. We have cultural team, which presented  a number of Awareness song and dance, composed by us on various social issues like cutting of trees, need for literacy for all, torture on women and so on.  At the end there was  a Magic Show which was thoroughly enjoyed by all !

( I love playing a Folk Drum, and, whenever there is a chance….. !!!)

 

Viswakarma Puja @ Kolkata : Now and Then

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Photo: Subhadip Mukherji (Thanks, hope you can fly these fresh ones tomorrow !)

September 16, 1966

When Deep and his friend Laltu reached the shop named Habib Ahmed Jarrah, it was already around  five thirty in the evening. The shop was already quite crowded with urchins of varied sizes and ages. Deep some how managed to push his head through the crowd and shouted “ Hey Azizbahi, what about our stuff, are they ready ?” Azizbhai shot a long smile and assured “Just give me some minutes, I would bring out your items, they are ready and I have packed them nicely. “

photo2457For the past one month Deep and Laltu were waiting for this day…. the delivery day for their items… kites, a reel of thread and a really good manja (glass dust pasted coloured thread). It was Laltu’s idea, to deposit their pocket money to Azizbhai every alternative day, otherwise they cannot gather so much money at the last moment…. a kind of forced savings. They were keeping a kind of rough record of their saved amount… and in any case, today they have brought a bit money..in case there is a short fall.
When Azizbhai handed over the two packets, they opened them and re-checked whether all the items are right there…. yes….yes.. here they are, two dozens of kites – 25 paise each; two reels of white cotton thread for 5 rupees, and,  500 yards of manja for 11 rupees. That is 22 rupees, meaning a shortfall of 2 rupees.“I would give the 2 rupees, you may pay me later” said Laltu.  Azizbhai said “So, you got all your items I suppose, bye, and, enjoy the Biswakarma puja.”

For Deep and many of his age,  Biswakarma (that is how Viswakarma is pronounced in this part of the country) is synonymous with “kite flying”, for early in the morning till evening.

September 17, 1966

The next morning Deep and Laltu were flying the kites from the roof-top of Laltu’s house. Deep’s house do not have a fenced roof top. Laltu belonged to gold-smith family and their family house is four-story high, and, flying kite from that height is indeed a real fun.

photo2425By  evening, once the kite flying is over they would be joined by 3 to 4 children of similar age and go around to visit the Biswakarma pujas arranged in different places.

Biswakarma is the God for machinery and tools. He rides on an elephant. In his one hand would be a chisel and in another would be a hammer.  In another hand a lotus and the last hand would hold a konch shell. Some over enthusiastic devotees would at times put a kite in one of the hands. Deep’s locality has several large factories, and, during this evening the main gate would remain open for all to visit the puja held inside. There would be a supervisor of the factory who would take these children on a round and explain to them the various machineries and show them the production line. Deep always enjoyed this part of the visit, and cherished a dream that, one day he would become a great engineer and invent many machines !!

At some factories they would offer Prasad, which normally would be various fruit pieces and sweets. By the time Deep returned home it would be  late evening, and, he would skip dinner and straight away go the sleep.

September 17, 2016

Today is the Biswakarma puja. I always remember the date. It is the only puja celebrated as per English calender. I always wondered why it is so. Pujas are held as per calculating the auspicious moment…. the thithi ….., but Biswakarma puja is always held on 17 of September every year.

Our locality do not have so many factories any more, they either closed down the shutters or the factory premises have been replaced by multi-storied buildings. The pujas are now held by people of different professions. We have many taxis in the locality. The taxi owners and drivers celebrate the puja, by cleaning the vehicles thoroughly and decorating them photo2428with flowers, little banana plants, and balloons ! The other emerging group which celebrate the puja is the workers of multi-storied houses …. the lift mechanics, water pump operators, in house electricians…. on the main entrance gate they place tender coconut balanced on a ghot (a special mud pot) filled with holy Ganges water. The bus owners and drivers also celebrate the puja. They organise feast for near and dear ones …. normally, these days, mutton is a common item for such occasion. (In our childhood days vegetable Khichri  – rice and dal cooked together with vegetable pieces – was the tradition).

At our organisation, an NGO,  we normally clean the vehicle, computers, printers …. after all they are machine too. Our puja is offered by an all women team ! Prasad .. sweet is distributed to all present during the time.

In the afternoon I found my son, taking grand-son on the pillion, going out some where. A little later they came back with a packet of Kites ! He never misses the day  when he buys the kites, though kites cannot be flown these days. For two reasons. One, for the past several years the day is lost due to heavy rain. Two, since there are tall buildings around one cannot fly a kite due to lack of steady flow of wind. But  my son keeps aloft the kite-flying tradition… Long Live Biswakarma…. long live Kite-flying celebration.

 

Early Childhood Education: Joy of English Learning

Why should my son go through NFE, why can’t my son learn like other children” asked a poor villager.

I could not follow his submission. He perhaps guessed it and added “I mean those children, from well-to-do family in the village, study in the type of schools where they learn English, and, why not my son get a chance to learn English” ?

I now got his point. Whenever we think of education for these hapless poor village children, those who are drop outs, or, could not go to regular schools, we come up with a NFE Programme. In the Non Formal Education curricula we do not include English, and, teach only in local language.

I have been in this village literacy enhancement task for over 25 years now. In the process conducted several hundred training programmes for the NFE Instructors or Literacy Teachers or Social Animators, in several states across the country like Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Assam and Tamil Nadu. I have  provided direct in-field guidance and thematic support to over a thousand NFE centres. In the process developed Primers, Posters, Flash Cards and a large number of “fun-n-learn” games with pictures, paper cut outs, letter cards and so on. Since we work mostly in tribal areas, we developed various group dances, group songs, street plays on social issues, so that social awareness, as a part of education, can be created. BUT this man really bowled me out !

So, we finally worked out four primer charts in English. First, idea was that Similar to Look and Easy to write Alphabets to be selected. Secondly, it was thought that learners will have fun if they learn some words using those newly learnt limited alphabets. In the similar way the rest of the 3 charts were designed.

We then percolated this method through training programmes conducted in many places. We found this method to be a very good one and the learners learn very fast. We used this method in Early Childhood Education Programmes, Non Formal Education Centres, Rural Pre-primary Learning Centres and found them to be very effective.

A Friend In Need – 2 : “Daab-Daab”

“ Well, you are now free of stomach ulcer” the doctor announced. Pakhi, my wife was visibly happy on this news. “But you must follow certain food restrictions…. no chillies… no hard spices” doctor added.

At home the relatives those who assembled,  were all happy. Those days a horde of relatives, especially the elderly aunts and uncles would eagerly await for the patients, to get the first-hand news. There were some elderly aunts who suggested that she should take tender coconut water every day. “Before lunch”.. one aunt added.

Now, I thought it was easy.  Tender coconut or Daab as it is locally called, was available in Paan (bittle nut) -cigarette shops.  Ganesh Rout’s shop was near our house…. this was the place we used to fetch Daab in our youth-days. I set out for the shop.

daabOn reaching at the shop, two things I noticed. One, Ganesh is no more there… there was an young man managing the small shop. Two, the shop is more decently decorated.  When asked, this young man informed that he is the son of Ganesh, and, he never sells coconuts any more. “In fact, no paan-cigarette shops would be selling coconuts any more”.he informed me.  Now I was panicked, and, asked is there a way out ? He gave me a tip. “Go near the temple of our locality, and, wait. Soon Sushilda would turn up…. he sells them”.  I waited in front of the temple, nearly an hour and finally found my redeemer!  He assured me steady supply…. every day before lunch time.  Next several months Sushil  dutifully accomplished his job religiously.. no matter it is a rainy day or a scorching sunny noon.  Near our house we could hear him shout “Daab….Daab”. He re-modelled his cycle by making two bamboo-made fence-like structure on both sides of his cycle where he hanged bunches of tender coconut.Soon he became my friend…. I learned that his full name was Sushil Halder, and he lived in a village called Raipur in our neighboring district.. 24 parganas.

*******

Our grand daughter Ruhani, studying at 5th standard,  was about to set out for her school when she complained that last night she had a stomach problem. And right at the moment ….. we heard the loud calling……”Daab…..Daab”. I rushed out…. and lo behold – Sushil.  I never knew he is still in the same business !  He is a a bit old now….. so am I.

daab 2We both were happy, meeting each other, after a long interval of several years.  Ruhani left for school, happy and relieved, after having the coconut water.

Sushil on his part , as usual, informed that going is tough these days. No…no. He has no complain about the price he gets. The tender-coconuts he used to sell me those days for Rs. 4/- only, now fetches 20/-. He feels,  because of our  mobile phones…… tall mobile towers….. which  disturbs the tall coconut trees, the size of coconuts are fast getting reduced ! I did not contest his scientific theories, but could only say  “thanks”….. which sounded very dry and artificial, even to my own ears !