I am Natthu Patel from Bhawai, district Banda. Being the first generation learner of my family, I have been extremely lucky to complete my MA education in economics. Now I look forward to join a government job and work hard for the society. My family doesn’t have a lot of history with education and that made me realize its worth during my schooling. I have always felt that it’s one of the most integral ways to know more about life, livelihood and the world. I have been giving free education to children in my village as a part-time teacher to fill this gap of literacy in my area.
I have been associated with Vanangana, a rural community based women’s right collective in Bundelkhand, for a few years now. I have also been an active participant of Be A Jagrik Phase 1. I have come to believe that education can indeed free the society from its paralysing conventions and perpetual vices. In my jabardast journey, I met Rahmatun. She is fighting a battle against societal norms. All of which started with her very own fight against domestic violence. The constant harassment led her to file a case against her ‘new family’ and leave that house. She is very brave to be doing that, not a lot of women have that audacity. Her story assured me that teaming with her for a project would be a great help. The determination of such people is unstoppable.Together, we aspired to change the deep-seated atrocities of the Saray Jadid community and educate them on the menace of gender based violence.
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My education as well as her experiences pushed us to choose Gender Based Violence for my Phase 2 journey. We chose Saray Jadid community after identifying the backward mindset of society. There is an innate discrimination between girls and boys in this community. Be it clothes they wear, education they pursue or freedom to move – there is a visible difference in their chances to express themselves. Girls are often deprived of opportunities to grow. This is either due to financial setbacks or the regressive ideologies. They are confined to the walls of their house while their male counterparts are entitled to options of livelihoods and sustenance. More girls drop out of schools as they reach adolescence. Patriarchy is deeply rooted in the system since time immemorial and hence the wellbeing or opinion of females is barely valued. In fact, they are expected not to opine, say or even reason. We were very sure that these years of toxic mentality can only be unwound through education. And it was evident that it would work better on children more than adults who have by now gone rigid with their thoughts. For adults, we had to develop a more community based approach.
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As part of our intervention, we went door to door in the community to ask people to participate in our sessions. We engaged the Saray Jadid in several discussions on Gender Based Violence. We also talked about the assignment of different gender roles to the children that goes on to shape their mindset in future. We tried explaining our point through several fun activities. The reflections received from them conveyed that our message and mission has reached them right. We helped the girls notice the discrimination they face in their everyday lives. We even rewarded the families who never allowed gender bias in their houses. Such simple reward systems have a long lasting impact on the minds of the people. We also visited a nearby school to design strategies that would encourage more girls to attend schools. This included introducing parents to several government schemes. A lot of them were happy to know about the possibility of free education. Their initial hesitation disappeared and gave way to an honest exchange of ideas. The girls and the parents were relieved to know that their daughters can also become resourceful in the time to come. Such testimonies make our day. In fact, they reinforce our morale to continue working for the society and equipping it with the right piece of information.