Monday, November 7, 2016

This Christmas Gift someone Unknown to you






Responses to our Appeal (given below) have started trickling in ! We profusely express our heartfelt thanks to the following friends for their immediate Donations. We also hope other well wishers will kindly help us.
1.Ms. Panchali Goswami Bhattacharya, Kolkata     INR. 1000/-
2.Ms. Sonia Bhattacharya, Bangalore                         INR 1000/-
3.Rasa & Rian Chatterjee, Kolkata                               INR  500/- (worth of gifts like crayons, drawing books, pencils and cup cakes)                                





Gift a Magic!!
For little Joyce Murmu, a visit to the local city of Ghatsila meant watching young girls of her age going to the local school in their fresh, colourful uniforms with school bags, nice shoes and socks. Being from the remote village of Kadamdih in Jharkhand, this was all but a dream. Today, Joyce goes to the Swadhina Good Hope School set up in her village. She too has a colorful uniform like her friends in the city and gets to learn little English rhymes like them.

For Ratuli Sahis, life as a marginal farmer was difficult. She had to balance her house-hold work with her on-off work as a land labourer. That was the only way she could support her big family. Swadhina’s help to her in the form of a pair of goats came as a boon to her. Now she has a comfortable life by Animal Reaing with goats and hens as her source of income. She has managed to repair her dilapidated house and is able to afford school education for her children.

Being the third among her seven siblings, Tapati’s life was a story of a never-ending drudgery  – bringing in unending buckets of water from the local tap, washing huge pile of utensils and washing clothes from dawn to mid-noon. However, being offered a chance by Swadhina, she enrolled for a Batik Handicraft Training course of three months in her locality. Diligently, she took out time from her busy schedule to attend the classes. At the end of the course she became so well versed with the
intricacies of the craft that she began to get offers from different boutiques. She now is a permanent staff in a renowned fashion boutique in New Delhi. She has evolved herself from the ashes of her drudgery to be an empowered, young woman.

 It is the Christmas Season once again. It is the time of gifts and merrymaking. So, this time why not Gift a Magic ? 'Gift a Magic' is a gift that would bring in a positive change in the lives of those who are deprived of the privilege of a better life and livelihood. It is a gift that empower women and children themselves-belonging to the extreme marginalised sections of the society located in Purulia (West Bengal), East Singbhum (Jharkhand), Mayurbhanj (Odisha), East Champaran (Bihar) and Kanyakumari (Tamil Nadu) through our organisation, SWADHINA. Your support can go a long way to bring in a postive change in the lives of many more Joyce, Ratuli or Tapati. It would help us help people like them have a better life and living; it would help us enlighten the light of magic in their lives! This Christmas, let there be light in the life of little Joyce !

There are three activities that you can help support:
* Support a Rural School - Good Hope School : US$ 50 / € 50 / £ 45      
(School Dresses/Shoes-Socks/Books/Copies/Sweaters for 5 students)

* Support Skill Training Programme for Rural Women: US$ 50 / € 50 / £ 45
(Skill Training for 5  Young Rural Women )       

* Support for providing Animal Resources to Landless or Marginal
    Farmer Women : US$ 50 / € 50 / £ 45
(Animal Support in the form 20 ducks/ hen or 1 goat each for 5 women)

You can send your donation through A/c Payee Cheque issued in the name of :  SWADHINA and mail it to :  Swadhina, 34/C Bondel Road, Kolkata 700019,  India.

Also, please share this Appeal with your friends and dear ones so that they too may take part in this joy of sharing.

SWADHINA, 34 C Bondel Road, Kolkata – 700019, India

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

PEACE DAY 2016

Swadhina organised the Peace Day on 2nd October, commemorating the Gandhii Jayanti, What elese could have been more appropriate than coinciding the day with the birthday of the man who is the prime symbol of peace and non-violence.

Peace, Mututal Goodwill and Progress - this was the primary theme of a one-day workshop organised by Swadhina on 2nd of October 2016 at Ghatsila, Jharkhand State. Altogether 43 persons were present on this occasion. As explained being the symbolism of Social Justice, Gandhiji's birthday was a apt opportunity to discuss on the issue. Speaking on this occasion, Smriti Sarkar, President of Swadhina, highlighted the fact that war and violence has direct effects on women. While on one hand women are constantly at a threat of domestic violence, in situations of war and violence, it is the women who suffer the most.

Ms.B.Kachhap, a former Sschool Principal, highlighted the fact that 'progress' is a holistic term that involves political, economical and social responses - and of which, Peace is a prime requisite.

Ms. Subhra Pani, a home maker, spoke on the contribution of Mahatma Gandhi towards world peace.



Ms.Amita Bose felt that peace and progress were inter-dependant on each other and progress can not be totally achieved if there is a lack of peace or lack of mutual goodwill.

Dr.Prabal Sanatani, senior correspondent of Hindustan Times newspaper speaking on the theme said that Peace in individual context is perhaps an easier concept but when we try to put it in the social or national perspective things become difficult. Individually, whenever we are wrong we ask for forgiveness and if there is a mutual understanding, we reach a solution. But in the larger perspective it becomes a huge challenge. However, if we practice the same principle of good will and mutual understanding , peace is possible. He said that if we are asleep, then can be an effort for awakening but if we pretend to be asleep, no amount of effort to awaken or to improve on awarenessn is possible. But for the sake of progress we must carry on the efforts to instill peace and goodwill.

Speaking on this occasion, Prof. Badal Chandra Bhakat, insisted that in situation where there is mutual distrust, violence there cannot be either Peace or Progress. It is not that there should not be any protest against atrocities. Beginning from South Africa, Gandhiji himself has demonstrated how protests can be peaceful. He propagated the ideas of non-violent means of resilience.  He explained how Gandhiji had protested against the British government through intelligent, non-violent movements. Prof. Bhakat also said that the real need in India to propagate progress is to strengthen the Panchayati Raj system. But no system can function if we have discrimination amongst ourselves. We must have a system of mutual goodwill intact, for progress to happen.

Ms.Ratna Mukherjee, a school teacher, felt that the feeling peace comes from within - from each individual of the society. If individually we believe in the theory of Peace and begin the process of non-violence, it is possible to build a progessive society on the foundations of peace and mutual trust.

Social worker Sunita Rani Sarkar gave a brief talk on Gandhiji's quest for a corruption free society and his constant efforts to develop a nation on the foundations of non-violence.

Social worker, Prabir Sarkar, said that much of the peace efforts comes form women and a nation that believes in the progress of nation is a truly progressive nation. And for that it is very important that women of the nation are empowered enough. There are many schemes for the benefit of women and we must ensure that the schemes reach women in the remotest regions.

Ms.Ratna Das, Ms.Karmi Kisku, Ms.Soumita Sanatani enthralled the audience with their songs. While the bold recitations of Ms.Nilima Sarkar, Ms. Sabita Banerjee and Ms.Ratna Mukherjee mesmerised all present. 

The programs of the day were moderated by Ms.Nilima Sarkar, a high school teacher and a Swadhina Member. The event ended with a symbolic song, all sang together "aguner parashmoni" by Poet Tagore, meaning "cleanse us with thy pure light" !




Thursday, September 29, 2016

Anandam 2016 : Swadhina Annual Get Together



Anandam 2016

Anandam 2016, our annual get together of Swadhina was held from 13th to 15th August, 2016. Every year our Swadhina workers from all over the country eagerly await for this event. This is an opportunity to meet many Swadhina activists from the five states in which we work namely Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu.
Decorating for the Festivity

The programme was held at the spacious Nitika Don Bosco centre located at the eastern part of Kolkata, which has scenic beauty with a good number of large trees and green lawns. Some enthusiastic participants, like Saswati and the Ghatsila (Jharkhand) team, Sugandhi and Gnanadhas of Kanya Kumari (Tamilnadu)  reached Kolkata the previous day. They got busy arranging for the files, pens, posters and all related conference materials.

13 August, 2016 (Saturday)
The event started at 10 a.m. with participants registering their names. This was held at the auditorium of the Nitika centre. Participants from different parts of the country started arriving at the venue.

Friendship Knot
The programme was inaugurated in a very unique and participatory way. All the participants were given small candles and each one was asked to bind a friendship band on the hand of the person sitting next. Thereafter, together we all sang Poet Tagore famous song “Aguner Parash moni Chhoaon Praney” – meaning 'Oh almighty touch our hearts,  as the flame shines around, bless our lives'. It was indeed a very touchy moment as many friends meeting each other after many years, especially the ones who could not 

come for the event during the recent years !

Ms. Supta Mukerji, founder Treasurer, welcomed the gathering and said “this is a great opportunity when we meet each other. I specially welcome our friends from Bihar Ms. Rambhabala. She has come with her son, Dipak. Her son was a much younger when she
Tamil Nadu Team
brought him along in one of the earlier Anandam. I am also glad to meet Gnanadhas from distant Kanyakumari – located just at the end of our country. He recently met with a bike accident – I could see he is still limping. This shows how much love they have for Swadhina.” She also explained the story about the birth of Swadhina about thirty years ago. It is indeed a saga of togetherness for a long period of time. “From a humble beginning, by the grace of God, we could travel so much of our journey and could make our presence in five states of our country” she added.

It was then time for some music, and, participants were asked to present songs in their own languages. We had melodious Tamil, Hindi, Bengali, Odia, Santhali songs which was indeed a mood setter for the event.

Bihar Team
Thereafter we had an interesting session on “Our Festivals”. Partiacipants were divided into groups according the region they represent and each group was asked to draw out a list of various festivals observed in their area. Then from each group there was a presentation in which the group explained the details of the festival observed in their region. It was indeed a show-case of a varied cultural diversity of our country.

Thereafter a session was held on the campaign of Swadhina. Each language goup was given copies of various campaign materials brought out by Swadhina i.e. Cartoon Booklets on Land Rights, Booklets on Social Awareness and so on. The groups were asked to discuss the effective way to use these at the grass roots level for our forthcoming campaigns.

There was video show on the Anandam held 13 years ago, which was indeed a nostalgic journey into the past. Many of the participants were over-whelmed seeing their young-self.  Rijul, our student intern who was operating the LCD projector was seen in the video
Jharkhand Team
as a little kid !!  

14 August 2016 (Sunday)
After the breakfast the morning session started with the Swadhina theme song “Manush to ek din jagbei”(meaning people are going to awake, some day. Things would change only if we work together, and,  in a unified manner, for change.) After this there were songs presented in different language.

Here after the most vital session on Presentation of Activity Reports was held. To begin with Ms. Saswati Roy, Secretary and Chief Functionary of Swadhina presented an overall progress report of the Organisation. She narrated about different thematic orientation of Swadhina programmes for the past
Odisha Team
year. She also narrated about the women’s land and property rights issues in which Swadhina is collaborating with International Land Coalition. She narrated about the interaction she had at the South Africa Meet of ILC . She also narrated about the  Global Land Forum meet held at Senegal, Africa attended by Smriti Sarkar and Subhadip Mukerji for Swadhina.

Founder Supta presents Special Prizes
Karmi Kisku presented a short report about the activities being carried out in her area by Swadhina. In her area, she explained, Swadhina projects are based around Ghatsila in East Singbhum district of Jharkhand.  Kitchen Garden made by village women are established in  21  plots in Kadamdih, Amainagar and Benasole village, mostly in Santhal tribal families. It has  started giving steady supply of nutritional food for families, i.e. vegetable and required green leaves. An  English pre-primary school under the Good Hope School programme of Swadhina has been established in Kadamdih village. Besides opening of bank accounts by women and women unorganised labourers insurance programme is going on successfully. A good number of
Special Prize to Gnanadhas of Tamil Nadu
women have come 
forward for marriage registration programme which is helpful for assuring women’s property rights. Besides, a good number of women have been trained in Swadhina social training programme like animal care and community health.

Monoranjan Bairagi presented a work report on the activities being carried out in rural Purulia district in West Bengal villages : Sosandih, Hatnadih, Taladih, Bongorah, and Charrhi - in Borabazar Block.  Here regular training on education for parents,  health care, animal care are being held. Health check up camps for children and women are being conducted regularly by Dr. Sahebram Gope, a voluntary doctor. Three Good Hope School programmes are being held for the children of pre-primary age.

Rambhabala from Bihar region said that much could not be done during the past years,
Games for Children !
but, assured that soon the centres will be re-organised and programmes conducted. However, she said “conducting awareness interaction for women is the need of the hour.”

Laduram Mahado narrated the details of the Children Education Support centre being run at the Bondih area. He explained that about 50 children belonging to Class II, Class III, and Class IV come regularly during the afternoon coaching clasess, being conducted by an experienced teacher Banka Bihari Mahato. This is being held at Bondih Swadhina centre in East Singbhum, Jharkhand State.

Ms. Nirmala Sahu pesented the report for the Odisha programmes. She explained that here the programme has two dimension. One, environment related activities involving children and two, income generation training for village women. These programmes are going on smoothly.

There after a short cultural programme was held, conducted by Srichandra.




15 August, 2015
Today is the Independence Day of India. After the breakfast all the participants gathered at the ground of Nitika for flag hoisting. Father- in- charge of the Nitika Don Bosco centre hoisted the flag and  a large gathering of Nitika staff and well wishers and local congregation members were present. In his short speech he said "we all must always do good things for the society, that is the only way this society will become a good society". At the end  of the meet, our  Odisha  convener Nirmala Sahu raised the traditional slogans “Vande Mataram” – long live mother india.

Thereafter we all again assembled at the auditorium -  Anandam venue. 
Secretary Saswati' Reporting Progress
In the following session, Ms. Smriti Sarkar explained the programmes conducted by the head office during the past year.  Several important audio-visual tools were brought out last year, including coloured posters on women’s rights, nutrition flash cards, flex banners and so on. The house journal Swadhina  had several issues brought out, which were shared among NGOs and social activists active in village situations. She also narrated various training programmes conducted during the past year.

There were various creative interactions including short drama on social issues. One short drama each in Odia, Bengali and Hindi language were prepared by the participants which were the main attraction of the final day. In the afternoon the dramas were performed and the participants enjoyed the show.

There was a short session on future perspective conducted by Diptendu Mukerji, an experienced  planning expert. He narrated the various future perspectives of Swadhina  in a Logframe narrative, and, stressed that in future Swadhina would be engaged in :
-         Women’s economic empowerment, including bank savings, insurance
-         Women’s Land and Property Rights
-         Children’s Education and Environment Awareness
-         World Peace and Harmony

In the concluding session Srichandra placed a short concluding remark and proposed the vote of thanks.

The event Anandam – which literary means “Joy” ended in a befitting manner with a group dance on a tribal song.  

Prepared by:  Diptendu Mukerji 

                                             












Monday, July 18, 2016


Animal Care Training : A Report
Place: Dharmasala, Ghatsila


Date: 5th -7th July 2016

The first day began at 10:30 am with the registration of the participants. It was then time for an inaugural song. “Aguner Poroshmoni” – a famous song by Tagore was chosen as an inaugural song. Ms. Supta Mukherji, the Founder-Treasurer of Kolkata gave the inaugural speech over a tele-call from Kolkata. She welcomed all the women participants and highlighted the fact that welfare of every family depends on the welfare of the women of the family. Hence it is important for women to be self-reliant and animal rearing is one such avenue. 


Participants

A special training focussing on animal rearing, care and effective use of animal resources took place on 5th – 7th July 2016. Smriti Sarkar, Diptendu Mukherji from Kolkata; Laduram Mahato and Prabir Sarkar from Jharkhand were the main resource persons. Altogether 20 participants from various villages took part in this training.
Day One: 5th July 2016
Introducing the training concept, Mr.Diptendu Mukherjee said that the training has been mainly organised for women participants, because it is the women who do animal rearing in most families. The basic objective of the training is to provide scope to women for income generation: both as animal rearers, as well as village vets. He said that, animal rearing is a viable income-generation option for families which have less land-based agriculture. However, it is not just important to rear animals but also rear animals in a more methodical and scientific process so as to reduce animal mortality. Proper animal care would ensure not just reduction in animal mortality but also improve animal produce – in terms of meat, milk, eggs etc.
Sharing the result of the group task
The first detailed session was on bird rearing and bird care. This was conducted by Smriti Sarkar. She gave a detailed explanation as to why bird rearing is a viable option for women. She gave a very detailed explanation on how to rear birds scientifically – their place of stay, ideal food for the birds, egg-laying spaces etc. This was followed by a very detailed discussion on several diseases and their cure – including vaccination. Fowl pox, worm infestation, blood dysentery, Duck plague, Duck cholera etc. The participants too asked questions on the various ways of treating the animals. The different vaccinations were discussed – BCRTV vaccine, F1 vaccine etc. The participants wer very pleased to know the different medicines to be administered in case of various diseases. Alongside the method of administration was also discussed in detail.
The session for the day came to a closure with a question-answer session with the participants.


Day Two: 6th July 2016
The session for the day began at 9:00 am. The training focussed on goat rearing. Speaking on goat rearing Smriti Sarkar explained how goats can be reared quite easily by women. She explained the process by which goat-shed can be built within the household premises itself. It is easy to arrange food for goat, since they mostly depend on fresh, green grass from the vicinity. This was followed by a detailed discussion on goat diseases, goat treatment and cure. The importance of goat vaccination was also highlighted.
The participants were then divided into two groups. One group was led by Saswati Roy and the other group was led by Prabir Sarkar. The group discussions focussed on animal care techniques based on the study materials provided.
Certificate for the Participants
Post the group discussion, a representative from each group came forward to explain what they had discussed so far.
The following session focussed on details about goat vaccination and diseases. PPR,Foot and Mouth, Anthrax, Gastina etc were discussed in detail.
Following this a detailed discussion took place on the viability and different income generation possibilities through rearing of goats.
The post lunch session was on pig rearing. From pig rearing to diseases concerning pigs, including treatment – every detail was discussed.
This was followed by practical session on vaccination for the participants. The participants learnt how to administer vaccines for birds and animals through live demonstration and hands-on training.

Day Three: 7th July 2016
The day began at 9:00 am with a recapitulation of the training so far. Following this, the participants were divided into four groups.  Each group was given an animal/bird to choose from : Goat, Pig, Hen, Duck. Each of the groups was then asked to prepare a poster on their respective animal/bird –highlighting atleast five benefits of rearing each of the animals. A representative from each group was then asked to explain their poster.It was interesting  to see the groups come up with very interesting points.
Tribal Dance : a part of the learning with joy
Following this the participants were each asked to write down their individual learning from the trainings and their overall experience. They then read out their writing.
The training concluded with the handing over of certificates to the participants.
The final touch was lent in the form of a song “Bhaduriar taney nachey mon” by the participants.

Impressions....                                       

Shankar Mahato:  This training was an enlightening process. I could learn a lot many things – bird rearing, goat rearing, pig rearing – and in detail. I’ve come to also know about Swadhina and how the organisation wishes to empower our women through education, health care and income generation.

Tapasi Sahis: I’ve been associated with Swadhina for a long time. For me it is interesting to learn new and scientific methods of animal rearing.  I wish to utilize this knowledge in an effective way in my field areas.

Golapi Tudu:  I loved this training. We have been rearing animals but never knew this much detail about rearing. I have enjoyed every bit of learning about rearing of hen, duck, pig, goat. This has provided me immense knowledge.

Panto Karmakar: I’ve never been to any residential trainings prior to this. I feel feel excited, having had the opportunity to learn many things.

Hiramoni Tudu: This gave me a very good opportunity to know about things that I hadn’t known earlier. So, I  learnt about treatment of animals reared at home.

Chandana Mahato: The training was very detailed. What was interesting for me, is the information about vaccines. I shall utilize the knowledge in treating animals in our village.

Practical session on Chicken Vaccination
Janki Hansda: I’ve always been interested about pig rearing and treatment of pigs, so this training was very important for me. It gave me a very good theoretical as well as practical exposure.

Sunita Kisku: Many of us have been doing animal rearing for a long time but we hardly know such details. There were many things I hadn’t ever thought of but now I’ve learnt so many things.

Sonamoni Tudu: I am very happy that I was selected for this training. I’ve never had the opportunity to participate in such trainings earlier. This would help me become economically empowered as well.

Pushing Injection: There is always a first time !
Sanjit Baskey: I am honoured to be a part of this training programme. I had very little  awareness about the different animal diseases. I not only wish to utlilize the training myself but also impart the awareness to others in near future.

Shyamal Tudu: This was an interesting training. Especially, learning about the medicines to be administered was very important for me. Often we learn about rearing but never about health care. Here we learnt each and every detail.

Kaleswar Kisku: The training was very interesting. We learnt so much about animal rearing.

Rani Tudu:  We have a lot animals in the village. They often die because we do not know how to take care of them. We cannot afford vets either. So this was really important for us. This would be very beneficial in future.
P



Sunday, November 15, 2015

YWCA-YMCA- Week of Prayer: A Swadhina presentation on the theme of ‘Children and the Message of Hope’

On 14th of November 2015, Swadhina was invited to make a presentation on the issue of Hope in the social context. 14th November being Children’s Day in India, the theme was on Children. 9 members from Swadhina team, including 3 children gave a wonderful presentation on the theme of ‘Children and the message of Hope’. The presentation included reading presentations, interspersed with rendering of songs. The programme was highly appreciated.


 Here is the print of the presentation that we did that day:

Introduction: Children are the gift of God to mankind. It is through children that we pass on our heritage; it is through children that we build our future. But it is equally distressing is the fact that today children are perhaps the most vulnerable community. Be it war, poverty, hunger or trafficking – it is children who are the prime victims.

Speaker 1: One of the biggest and shameful menace that exists today is the issue of Child Labour. Just consider these facts:
An estimated 246 million children are engaged in child labour. Nearly 70 per cent (171 million) of these children work in hazardous conditions – including working in mines, working with chemicals and pesticides in agriculture or with dangerous machinery.
Nearly 1.2 million children are trafficked, 5.7 million children are forced into debt bondage or other forms of slavery and 1.8 million children are forced into prostitution and/or pornography .
The Asia and Pacific region harbours the largest number of child workers in the 5 to 14 age group, 127.3 million in total.

(Song 1 : Talapini re)

Speaker 1: The song you just heard is the message of hope that the angels imparted to the shepherds about the birth of Chirst. Like God has always sent a message of hope during the times of distress, there is always a ray of silver lining too.
* Governments all over the world has been proactive about Child Labour laws. In India too we have strong Child Labour laws which makes it an offence to employ children below 14 years.
* There was once a tendency of employing small children as domestic help. That tendency is declining. We are now conscious of the fact that employing children for domestic work is a punishable offence.
* There have been a number of activists and organisations relentlessly working to bring forward the issue of child labour and championing their cause. Activists like Kailash Satyarthi have been successful in bringing out the distress of children involved in various industries.
* But we still have a long way to go. It is not just enough to have laws, there is a need to have a strong monitoring system to ensure that the laws are properly implemented. Especially the issue of child trafficking needs adequate attention and action.
* We, as common citizens can be messengers of hope as well. We need to be alert and aware. If ever we find children wrongfully employed, we have to be practive and report to the respective authorities.

Speaker 2: Whenever we speak about children, the first thing that comes to our mind is school. We cannot think of children without school but the reality is harsh.
One in five children, about 120 to 125 million children, are not enrolled in school. Of those who do receive an education, mostly in the developing world, one in five do not make it past the fifth grade. 
In India, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), shows that even though the number of rural students attending schools is rising, but more than half of the students in fifth grade are unable to read a second grade text book and are not able to solve simple mathematical problems.
In the developing countries, most of the schools do not have the basic infrastructure. Most of the classes are held in open, under the trees or in inadequate rooms.

(Song 2 : Jeevan Roopi mor donga)

Speaker 2: When the times are bad, the sea is rough, we close our eyes and depend on God. We believe that he will take us to the right direction where we may find hope. In the same way, we need to be totally disheartened. There are many positive steps that are being taken to ensure that our citizens of tomorrow are not left without education.
* The Right to Education Act in India for example is a landmark act, to ensure that all the children below the age of fourteen is ensured free and compulsory education. This act has also ensured that the children from economically impoverished families too get a chance to study in good schools.
* In India there are many schemes aimed at improving the infrastructure of rural schools. As a result many schools now have new buildings including computers.
* Many schemes are also introduced whereby scholarships are offered to high school students from socio-economically backward classes. This has enabled many worthy children to go in for higher education.
* Young girls like Malala Yousufzai have stood up to guns and violence, just to prove the point that eduation is the right of every child. In India too we have noticed the trend of girls resisting forced marriages to continue their education.
* As citizens, we too have our responsibilities. If we find a poor child going to school, we can offer to buy her books, we can provide free tuitions to them. We can also support and sponsor schools run by different NGOs for poor children. We can visit rural or slum schools and offer to teach the children.

Speaker 1: As we bite into good food today, let us not forget the millions of children who go to bed hungry. There are children who fight their daily battles with hunger and poverty. Think about this:
* Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year. That is 8,500 children per day.
*  66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world.
* Every 10 seconds, a child dies from hunger-related diseases.
* Some 300 million children go to bed hungry every day. 
( Song 3 : Shepherd of my soul)
Speaker 1: Children are innocent souls. They depend on God whole-heartedly. Similarly they depend on us for their basic needs. Food is their basic need. It is upto us to provide them hope, to provide them their basic needs.
* The mid-day meal scheme, inspite of different criticisms, have been able to provide food to thousands of little children of impoverished families in India. It has ensured that the children have atleast one nutritious meal a day, other than their regular meal.
* Health programmes, both by the government and different NGOs have helped track severe cases of malnutrition among children and take adequate measures. Many NGOs, Government have made nutritious food supplements to address the need of malnutrition.
* As citizens we have a huge responsibility too. For one, we must stop wastage of food. There is a global campaign across the world about this issue. And we have to be active as well. Curbing extra expenditure for food during celebrations, we can offer food to the poor children instead. The huge wedding expenses on different cuisines of food can easily be replaced by a simple menu, in remembrance of millions of children who go to bed hungry.

Speaker 2: This is just tip of the ice-berg. There are many, many problems and issues. And there are solutions as well. How we approach to solve the problems is upto us. On behalf of Swadhina, we have tried to look into the problems and find solutions in our own little ways. We have carried out campaigns against child labour and the different violence and violations faced by children over the years. “I am not well” has been one such campaign booklet that we have sent across to raise awareness on the issue.
We struggled relentlessly on the issue of children’s education for past 29 years. From NFE centres to interesting primers, we have put in our bit. Currently we have held out hope for the children of rural, tribal areas in the form of pre-primary schools called ‘Good Hope Schools”.
Food security and nutrition have been one of our thrust areas. Our workers have developed the low cost alternative to health drinks in the form of ‘ Nutrimix” – made of cheap, locally available ingredients. This food supplement have successfully provided nutrition to many poor children.
These are just examples of how we can all contribute to the ray of hope. You, me, us – we have all been sent to this world with a purpose. We have all been blessed with different abilities. It is upto us as to how we can use the blessings of God, and our talents to usher in the message of Hope for all – especially the children of the world.

(Song 4 – Final Song: Stuti Aradhana)





Friday, April 3, 2015

                                                                  WOMEN’S DAY 2015

Every year International Women’s Day is an event we look forward to. Being a women’s organization, it is a special opportunity for us to reach out different issues to the masses, especially giving a reason for the women to celebrate a day specially designated to them. This year we decided to orgnise the day in three different venues, covering women from different backgrounds . So, the programmes were organized at Kolkata in West Bengal, Moubhandar near Ghatsila in East Singbhum-Jharkhand, Benasole village in Mosaboni block in East Singbhum-Jharkhand and Betnoti area in Mayurbhanj district of Orissa. While in Kolkata the invitees comprised of women from contrast backgrounds like women from urban locales as well as slum dwellers; in Benasole and Betnoti the participants were all tribal women belonging to the extremely impoverished rural regions whereas in Moubhandar it was an interesting mix of women belonging to Harijan colonies and women involved in factory work. The overall experience was richly rewarding because irrespective of the background, one thing was loud and clear – women are changing! The thought process, the involvement in the society, the participation of women were gradually undergoing a drastic change in the positive direction. What was more interesting was the fact that except in Kolkata where the meet was organized by Swadhina main office, the meets in the other two areas were organized totally by the local initiative with the whole-hearted involvement of local women. It was a sign that a positive change is finally happening!

1) Kolkata: 8th March 2015 :
On 8th March 2015, the day was celebrated near the main office premises at Kolkata. The community reading room of a local library was the venue. The programme began at 10:00 am and concluded at 2:00 pm.  35 women participants from different strata of the society took part in this meet. The event began with a welcome speech by Supta Mukherji, the founder of Swadhina. Swadhina Secretary Saswati welcomed everyone to join in for a song. A popular song of Tagore was chosen as the inaugural song. All the   participants sang along.
A section of the participants

Smriti read out the theme paper. Highlighting the historical significance of Women’s Day, the theme paper touched upon the commitment for the coming days in the Post 2015 scenario where the violation of women’s rights are to be considered a serious human rights issue. She stressed on the fact that 2015 is a landmark year since it is the beginning of a new era when we can rectify the shortfalls of the MDG  goals and put forward new issues that have come across in the past decade. Chhanda then went on to give a brief about Swadhina and how it was contributing to the women’s empower-ment process as a whole. She also spoke on what activities could be incorporated into Swadhina’s future activities to ensure a meaningful contribution to Post 2015 agenda.This was followed by an interesting pictoral presentation on women – stories of women who came from simple background but brought in a change in the society. From Savitribai Phule to Mary Roy; from Mary Kom to Bachendri Pal – the stories gave an insight into how women have the capacity to fight against odds, against social norms and against a system that can think of women only in stereotype roles. This was followed by an interaction where each one was asked to describe as to why she felt that she was special. While one pointed out how she was managing home, her job as a teacher with equal elan, the other pointed out as to how she worked for the poor children and helping them express themselves through various art forms. A few felt that they were ‘merely housewives’ which did not involve much creativity. This myth was dispelled through a game. Posters of different vegetables were kept unseen and the participants were divided into groups of two. Each group was asked to select any three vegetables without seeing the picture. They were then asked to plan out a meal for guests using only those three vegetables, without any restriction on spices. Each of the teams came up with some brilliant food courses beginning from starters to desserts! They were even asked to share the recipes! At the end of the exercise, everyone was convinced that there couldn’t be a better creative process than being a home-maker!

This was followed by yet another activity where each had to narrate an incident from their lives that they feel was daring. The activity threw up many interesting stories – from combating harassers on train to travelling abroad for the first time – the activity gave a very good opportunity to the women to look back at incidents that brought out the daring beings in them. For instance there was this woman from the slum areas who narrated how Swadhina had given opportunity to a handful of young slum women to present a play in front of a huge audience for the first time. “That was the first time we were ever standing on a stage, leave alone performing”, she added with a smile. She then went on to narrate how then on their group had performed various plays at various places.

The following activity was yet another interesting activity where each participant had to contribute a paragraph and build on a story. It was interesting how the story of a girl emerged as a process where the finale was in empowerment of the girl. Interestingly everyone of the participants, though coming from diverse backgrounds, focused on education and social involvement of the girl, rather than on marriage!
An over-whelmed Mala Roy Chowdhury hands over a token donation
as a mark of solidarity to Swadhina during the event.

Finally there was a play-read session by Smriti and Srichandra about the experiences of a maid and her old, lady employer about ‘Valentine’s Day’! Peppered with humour the play highlighted how we often fall into the folly of being unfriendly mothers-in-law without realizing how we could ourselves seek happiness ourselves! In between the participants expressed their talents in music by enthralling others with some great songs! The programme finally concluded with a group song.



2) Moubhandar: 14th March 2015:
On 14th March the International Women's Day was celebrated at Moubhandar in Ghatsila region in East Singbhum  in the presence of 32 participants. The programme was organised at the Worker’s Union Community office located at Moubhandar.
A performance by Swadhina Social Choir team
The program began with an introduction of each of the participants . The programme began with a song rendition by school teachers Mita Chatterjee and Ratna Das.The Swadhina Social Choir team  dressed in yellow cloak set the tempo of the day with a Hindi  song “Asma hai Pita, Bharat Bhoomi Maa” – a song stressing on the need to resolve all conflicts and build a situation of communal harmony .
  The whole program was  coordinated by Swdhina Secretary, Ms. Saswati Roy. She gave a brief speech about the foundation and establishment of Swadhina . Swadhina founder and tresaurer Ms Supta Mukherji  reminisced about the struggling days of Swadhina and how Swadhina had worked towards the vision of women’s empowerment many years ago.
Swaswati explains about Women Change-Makers through Flash-Cards 
In the next part  Saswati  narrated the history of Interntional Women's Day from the hand outs. She explained how International Women's day is  homage  given to the women  liberation movement which started in 1908  in America where the women workers of the cotton mills in America demanded three things : 1)Reduction of working hours 2)Voting rights 3)Equal wages for women workers. She then went to detail out the visions in the Post 2015 period for Women’s Movement, highlighting on ensuring the basic human rights to every woman of every strata of the society.
Zilla Parishad Chairperson Sonia Samant speaks
The chief guest of this meeting was Zilla Parishad Chairperson Ms. Sonia Samant who gave an inspirational speech urging women to shed their inhibitions and work towards women’s empowerment – for themselves as well as for their next generation. She stressed on the need for overall participation of women in all spheres of the society – including political participation.

The best part of the celebration was the way each and every woman took this opportunity to express themselves and display their hidden talents in one way or the other. Anita Sing read out from her personal writing, social activist Supriti Murmu shared her feeling  about the day explaining  that all the women who have privilege to gain education should think about deprived women and help them become literate,                                                                                                   
 Sandhya Kumari and Nilima Sarkar recited poems , Pramila Mishra sang a beautiful song.                                                                                            
Smriti Sarkar from Swadhina gave a presentation through Flash Cards about women change-makers, who had dared to give wings to their dreams. Following this all the women present there were asked to share their dreams and achievements. This was a wonderful session where the women could share the dreams they had nurtured but were not able to fulfil or dreams that they still think possible.
Different games were played through which the role of womanhood was celebrated.
The day concluded by singing the Hindi version of the song – “We shall overcome”.

3) Benasole: 15th March 2015:
On 15th March the International Women's Day is celebrated at the Benasole Panchyat Bhavan  .The 
Swadhina Social Choir shares a song on Dowry harrasment
The Magic Show liked by the villagers very much !
program started  with the opening song “Hum Ek Hai” by Swadhina Social Choir team, followed by Swadhina song “Manush to ek din”. This program was also coordinated  by Swadhina seceratary Saswati Roy.The welcome speech was given by  founder- treasurer Ms. Supta Mukherji . Swadhina field worker Kumari Rajbiri  read out the history of International Women's Day. She also explained how Women’s Day has become a crucial platform for bringing women’s issues to the forefront. A flash-card journey through the lives of different women change-makers prompted many women to share the challenges that they face in their daily lives. During the interactive session the local women came up to explain how their little kitchen gardens have become their own symbols of rights over their land. Many interesting games were organised for the women through which they could not only bring their talents to the forefront but could also share knowledge.

The finale included an entertainment package for them – a magic show! Being a women living in the rural areas, seldom do they get the privilege of.The finale included an entertainment package for them – a magic show! Being a women living in the rural areas, seldom do they get the privilege of.
but could also share knowledge.The finale included an entertainment package for them – a magic show! Being a women living in the rural areas, seldom do they get the privilege of.

4) Betnoti : 26th March 2015: 
On 26.3.15 from 10 am-2pm at Benoti Women's community center Swadhina celebrated International Women's Day . The partcipants attended in this celebration came from 4  villages surrounding the region . 70 women partcipated in this program .

A section of the participants listen while Participatory Resource Mapping prepared by them adorn the wall ! 
A team travelled from Kolkata to Betnoti to attend this program. Swadhina Social Troupe members sang Oriya song ”Bhaiya re kori jaa” and Hindi song “Asma hai pita Bharat bhumi ma”. Swdhina Orissa Field Co-ordinator Nirmala Sahu gave a short speech on history of women's day . She 
Active participation
explained about the women’s liberation movement  that occured  in 1908 in USA. Swdhina's tresaurer and founder Ms Supta Mukherji reminisced about earlier struggling days of Swadhina .In her short speech she welcomed every partcipant  and narrated the back ground of Swadhina as an establishment. She also said that the main goal of Swadhina was the upliftment of women’s social status  through education and empowerment. She said that children's health and education is another area  were Swadhina concentrate on.
The chief guest in this program   was Mukhiya of Benoti Panchayat Smt. Panmoni Dinda . During her speech she said that she firmly believed that no nation can develop without the  development of women .She thanked Swadhina for taking initiatives to build awareness among women . On this occasion chairperson of women's community group Smt Sanjukat Majaya and Assistant Chairperson Binota Bera was also present.From Swadhina Kolkata team  Manju Bairagi  spoke on how women must have and exert their rights over different  government schemes like Indira Awas Yojana, Antaday  Ration card scheme, Old-age Pension scheme etc which help women in becoming self reliant . She also spoke on how kitchen garden could help women in establishing their rights over the family land. Inviting women to be part of this process, token seed support were given to marginalized women.

This was followed by different group games.All the participants present there was divided into 5  groups each groups were given a piece of papers were   vegatbles name were written each groups were asked to share a recipe made out of those vegetables .A game was played where the participants had to enact the topic given to them without speaking a single word. The program ended with a group song.
 photo: NAVA Communication, Kolkata