Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Marginalised Community Empowerment through youth engagement and education

The MCE projects in Punjab have grown exponentially these past few months! We have now expanded and are working with another migrant camp in Hariana. Many of the people from this camp are closely related to the members of the Paro camp. Moreover, two years ago, we used work with the Hariana camp. So during our first interactions with them, their reactions towards us were totally surprising. We had a very happy welcoming and they showed themselves to be extremely open towards working with us again.
Elise with two of the young girls from the Paro migrant camp
MCE Project Manager, Iria  
The English and math classes that we have been conducting with the young women of the Paro community since last fall have continuously been improving. We have created worksheets and introduced English reading skills as a part of our lesson plans. We originally thought it would be a great challenge for us to teach reading to the young women,  as they do not know how to read in Punjabi – their own language, but as always, the women have surprised us! They were happy to learn and they really put in a significant amount of effort into it. Now, after a month and a half, they recognize almost all of the sounds of the letters, they are able to read simple words, and are even able to write some of them.
With math, we were also very pleasantly surprised. Addition was actually quite basic for them and with subtraction – they were able to understand it only after one lesson! So now we are just introducing more and more complex numbers, and they are starting to connect all of their knowledge. Moreover, something that is making us incredibly happy is seeing them help each other and teach each other at the camp. While we are not there, the older girls are teaching the numbers and the alphabet to younger children who don’t go to school
Math lessons
Math lessons
Unfortunately, the health and hygiene situation is still a big problem at the camp. We are still continuing our efforts to improve the living standards. We have had a couple of situations with two malnourished young women that especially brought these issues to the forefront. They were both feeling very weak; one even fainted and was on an IV. So we did a small informal survey with them and found out that, at least one of them was only eating once a day, and it was a very small amount of food. Moreover, both of them are currently breastfeeding and thus it is even more crucial for them to eat properly. In this context, we decided to create a nutritional workshop to do with them. It was a totally successful project! Even without a translator and the language barriers, we were able to conduct these workshops and have the women understand what we were trying to impart to them. We did the workshops in two days, in two different sessions; in the morning with the young women and in the afternoon with the mothers. The latter was highly motivated and eager to implement these healthier nutritional models. These workshops also enabled us to converse about these topics more freely and for it to become a central theme in our work. Now the migrants are showing us what they cook, giving us a taste, and we are able to directly assess how they are eating. Just from these immediate results, we say that it was a great success. We are so proud of them and of ourselves.
Last, but not least, the micro-finance initiative has begun! We have recently just over a month ago created a Self Help Group for the women in both the Hariana and Paro camps! In this project the women are supposed to contribute either 2 rupees a day, 15 rupees a week, or roughly 50-60 rupees a month. Moreover, in Paro, the men were also very keen on this microfinance project, and so we also established a SHG for them as well. We are hoping through these micro-savings we can teach the migrants more effective ways of financial management and savings. Since usually, it is not for the lack of money, but rather their usage of money that is the biggest problem contributing to their poverty. Furthermore, through these SHGs we would like to enable the women to feel more economically empowered and less dependent on their families and husbands. Soon after these developments, we eventually began discussions of forming more personalized micro-finance projects with them in the near future, such as creating a chicken coop to produce and sell eggs.
Natalie with some of the members of the SHG
MCE Project Manager,
Iria Paz
Iria Paz, Spain
Project Manager – Marginalized Community EmpowermentJanauri, Punjab; Mar-June 2013