This following collection of recent stories from Vikalp Sansthan in India demonstrate the immense power and potential of their many programs. We hope this update inspires you and motivates you to continue supporting such outstanding work.
SPORTS, SELF-DISCOVERY & SELF-LOVE
In the last reporting period, Vikalp Sansthan held a three-day Sports for Empowerment Workshop for rural girls. As you can probably guess, it was about so much more than sports. After daily volleyball sessions, the participants gathered for presentations and discussions covering a wide range of women’s empowerment issues.
“Girls should never think that they are less when compared to boys.”
• Sports for Empowerment Participant •
Vikalp Sansthan explains it best: “The workshop taught values and core beliefs like determination, positivity, self-commitment, discipline, self-love, to follow your inner voice and find your own truth. It inspired everyone to eliminate feelings of jealousy and be happy for others’ progress. It empowered them to take active steps against female subjugation. [The] workshop developed understanding regarding the relationship between body, work, money, emotion, relationship, sexuality and spirituality and how important it is to create a balance between all.”
One participant shared: “I learned a lot from the activities and games that we played. These games carried a message that will be helpful in my life. I got to learn my rights and if any person tries to take away my rights then I can raise my voice against it. I expressed my emotions and spoke freely about my safe space. I also played volleyball and learned how to play it the right way.”
PIECING TOGETHER PEACEFUL FAMILIES & COMMUNITIES
At 16 years old, a Vikalp Sansthan participant had witnessed her father physically and verbally abusing her mother many times. Though she bravely tried to talk to her father about it on her own, he was not convinced to change his behavior. When Vikalp Sansthan conducted a community engagement meeting in her village, she spoke up and explained the problems she was experiencing. Vikalp Sansthan called her father and eventually convinced him to engage in counseling. Ultimately, the counseling was effective in putting a stop to the violence at home. Perhaps best of all, reports Vikalp Sansthan, “She not only helped her parents but also started taking leadership for other women and girls who do not stand up for themselves and motivating them.”
For six months, another Vikalp Sansthan participant had been experiencing continuous physical and mental abuse at the hands of her husband. Then one day she learned of the Vikalp Sansthan Helpline & Support Center from her sister. She came into the center for counseling, and after some time, invited her husband to come in for counseling of his own. In time, the two began to communicate more openly and respectfully with each other and things slowly began to improve at home. But then her husband began talking about an arranged child marriage for their 8 year old son. This was common practice in their village, but this courageous mother was against it. With help and support from Vikalp Sansthan, she was able to convince her husband that it was too soon for their son to be married and important to get him back into school. Vikalp Sansthan will continue to visit and follow up with the family to monitor their progress, but for the time being, they are living happily and harmoniously together.
In the last quarter, Vikalp Sansthan’s Helpline & Support Center responded to 17 cases, over 50% of which were related to domestic, gender-based violence. Other complex cases involved cyber crime, missing girls, a missing woman, sexual harassment and rehabilitation. The support provided by Vikalp Sansthan is holistic, including a range of services: home visits, counseling, referrals to lawyers and law enforcement, livelihood/employment support, referrals to government support, referrals to education, and counseling for education. Eight cases were resolved during the reporting period and many others are still receiving support.
The Vikalp Sansthan Helpline & Support Center also helped arrange survivor support groups and regular meetings in which group leaders facilitated discussion and problem solving among the women. Working together, the groups were able to address the majority of their questions and issues (mainly challenges or conflicts at home) on their own. More serious issues that could not be fully addressed or required additional support were then referred to the helpline. Vikalp Sansthan was pleased to report that the “support groups have become very active and are trying to solve issues at their level,” a wonderful sign of community empowerment and self-determination.
“During the home visits for follow up, it was encouraging for us to see all the survivor girls and women who received help from the center are leading a healthy and happy life with their husbands and families. It was a positive indication that results of our efforts and counseling are long lasting.”
• Vikalp Sansthan Team •
STOPPING VIOLENCE WHERE IT STARTS, BEFORE IT STARTS
“In collaboration with [GoPhil partner] Equal Community Foundation (based in Pune) we started working with boys… The approach of raising gender equitable boys can make a significant contribution towards preventing gender-based violence and discrimination.” – Vikalp Sansthan Team
In the last reporting period, Vikalp Sansthan began working with over 40 boys (aged 13 to 17), taking them through a 15-module program inspired by ECF’s Project Raise. After completing module four, they were already seeing major shifts in how the participants were thinking about gender equality and treating the women around them, and received the following remarks:
“In our village the girls do not have the right to get educated because their families do not allow them to go school. Girls are always under some sort of pressure.”
“Till now, we were only following the decisions given by our parents. We had no opinion, but from now we will stand for ourselves.”
One participant lives with his parents and three siblings, two of which are girls. He started attending Vikalp Sansthan meetings in his village back in 2018, where he began learning about child marriage and the importance of education. He has since participated in all the Project Raise sessions and Vikalp Sansthan reports: “He says that after attending the gender equality session he understood that women and men should equally contribute to household work or any other work. He started helping his sister and mother with household work… for example cleaning the dishes and bringing vegetables from the market. After attending the sessions he started taking care of his sister and listening to advice from his sister. He also helps in studies. Earlier he did not help his sister in her studies… he used to avoid the suggestions given by his sister but now he understands her viewpoint.”
Please note that URGENT FUNDING of $866 USD is still needed for Equal Community Foundation’s 2020-2021 Grant Cycle, with which they can continue their fantastic work through Project Raise. This funding will help ECF identify, train and mentor more grassroots organizations like Vikalp Sansthan to implement their gender equality program. If you are able to make a contribution to help fill this funding gap, please make a donation today.
WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE
Also during this reporting period, in celebration of International Day of the Girl Child, Vikalp Sansthan arranged for 16 girls from a rural, tribal village to travel to Udaipur, many for the first time, to visit a police station, district court and bank. The goal was to introduce the adolescent girls to successful women working at these institutions and bridge the gap in understanding between them.
At the police station, two successful women in the force shared their personal experiences and the struggles they have faced in their lives, emphasizing the importance of education. After learning more about the daily life of a police officer, the girls were given an opportunity to talk about the issues taking place in their village: “One girl complained about the problem of alcoholism in their village which in turn inflicts violence… Another wanted to know how they, as an individual, can contribute to combat child marriages.” The group went on to learn about the court system and importance of justice from a lawyer and judge at the district court, and then about the financial system and importance of saving money at the bank.