Before all the field visits we had introduction meetings with the different NGO’s. They presented their organization, how they worked, their goals and what we could expect during the field trips. During the field trips they answered all our questions and afterwards we could summarize our experiences and thoughts. This gave us a good opportunity to understand their work, to see how they perform and also to ask the questions that came up during the day.
We started our trip by visiting two NGO’s focussing on children’s education. The first field visit was arranged by Pratham. Pratham is a non-profit NGO established in 1994 in Mumbai. They introduced us to their four main programs which involve strengthen basic of literacy and numeracy of children, helping youth, especially girls who have dropped out of school to complete their secondary school certificate as well as industry specific programs such as hospitality, construction, automotive, healthcare and entrepreneurship programs in beauty and tailoring.
Our second field visit was with Educate girls. We took the cars and drove, literally for almost 4 hours to the “middle of nowhere”. We visited two different schools supported by Educate Girls. Educate Girls was founded in 2007 and is also a non-profit NGO with focus on enrolment, retention and learning of the most rural and marginalized girls by leveraging existing government and community resources and They also promote girls’ leadership.
Jaipur exhibits some of the worst gender indicators, the highest number of children marriages and child brides where 6 in 10 girls marry as children. Female literacy rates barely reach 60%. World Economic Forum ranks India 108th out of 145 countries in the Gender Gap Index. Only by visiting the villages it is possible to realize the discrimination/marginalization that is so prevalent in the remote geographies of India.
In Delhi we had a workshop with Sesame Street and World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). The workshop was called “Wash up India”. They increased the demand for use of safe, clean toilets in communities who lack them. They increase the wash behaviours and they often work with advertisement on the television or they go out in the slums teaching the children with small iPads. Together with WAGGGS they have developed a new model that integrates the program of Sesame Workshop with a Guiding Program that empowers girls through education, skill building advocacy and community action driven demand for safe toilets and to improve water, sanitation and hygiene behaviours.
After five very interesting days in Delhi and Jaipur I also took the chance to go to Pune for visiting the Lila Poonawalla Foundation (LPF). The first evening I also had a very good meeting with the Family Planning Association of India (FPA) board. The FPA focusses on providing integrated high quality sexual and reproductive health service. They operate both trough clinics, mobile clinics and through fieldworkers that they educate to spread information in their own village. They provide services including contraceptives, abortion, HIV/AIDS programs, STD (sexual transmitted disease) programs, paediatric services including immunization, health check-ups and free treatments. They told me that they have discussed a clinic in Jaipur for a long time, but they haven’t been able to fund it.
My last mission was to visit Lila Poonawalla and LPF. I spent 1.5 days with her, visiting three schools, and five families in the slums. I have spent a lot of time in India the last five years and Lila has taken me to slums before. But this time I realized they had only showed me the “good” ones. I spent almost one day interacting with five different families in the worst slum areas in Pune. They lived under circumstances it is hard to believe. This was a great eye opening experience and combined with the impressions I got with UBS Optimus Foundation in Jaipur and Delhi it made me realize the tremendous need of support there is in India, today and for many more days to come.
I think Lila Poonawalla Foundation (LPF) is doing a fantastic work, because not only does she support the education of the girls, she involves the girls’ families, they make sure that all the girls enrolled in the program pass the exams, by organizing extra help both to all the girls but also to specific ones if needed. LPF has a 100% success rate of the girls to pass their exams. She also teaches them necessary life skills. They also have a phenomenal way of integrating the mothers and fathers in the life skills education. When I visited three schools, it was a Sunday (they opened the school solely for me). But believe it or not, ALL the children where there greeting me, interacting with me, telling me how grateful they were to Biltema Foundation for the support. Not only had the girls come, most of the parents as well. We had a good time with a lot of interaction!
I am very grateful to Biltema Foundation as well as UBS Optimus Foundation who enabled me to go on this trip. I am sure it will add value to the foundation and we will profit from the experiences when making decisions about the support of projects in the future.
Åsa Andreasson, April 2nd 2016