February 2021

Smile Foundation




“My father worked as sewage cleaner and I worked in a private job. As the lockdown started, our income stopped. Our savings were depleting and we were having sleepless nights thinking about how to manage our family’s expenses. I approached Savita Didi (Swabhiman coordinator) for help. Listening to my ordeal, she instantly suggested me to use the pile of clothes stocked in my house to make handmade masks. She taught me a simple way to make the masks and even advised to connect with the company I worked in for marketing of the masks. After negotiations, the company agreed on a compensation of Rs. 1.5 per mask and even provided thread and cloth for the same. Now, it takes me 4 hours to prepare 50 masks. At the end of the day now, I can sleep peacefully as I am able to ensure meals for my family and also say that we can inspire each other to become change makers” shares 22 year old Bhawna.

Swabhiman, Smile Foundation community engagement programme for empowerment of women and adolescent girls, has been working for over 15 years now to build a cadre of educated, confident, healthy, aware and financially independent women and girls who can become change makers for the society. Working with adolescent girls, the programme conducts sessions on menstrual health and hygiene, healthy eating, and other adolescent health issues to sensitize them and help them develop a health-seeking behavior. Special health camps facilitated by experienced gynaecologists are also organized to give them access to basic healthcare services. Similar workshops are held for holistic life-skill development of the girls on topics such as confidence building, personality development, yoga, self defence and financial literacy.

Meritorious girl children are awarded scholarship to complete their schooling and help them pursue higher studies. The Swabhiman scholars are taken on educational trips and exposure visits, attend career counseling sessions and inspiring sessions with women achievers, and get special assistance like free tablets to help them excel in their chosen fields of study.

During the pandemic, as schools and colleges shut down, the Swabhiman team became even more active connecting with the community girls on call and through other digital media. This was to ensure that the girls can continue to learn and move ahead with a positive mind space to become the future change makers. Recent research has showed that youth are one of the worst affected population groups during the pandemic, particularly their mental health has been adversely impacted. Loss of studies, jobs and opportunities due to the lockdown and the ensuing financial crisis has resulted in increased anxiety, fear and depression. In case of adolescent girls from socio-economically disadvantaged families, the situation is worse as they face the possibility of being coerced into marriage because of a break in studies or career. The Swabhiman team is providing a support system to these young girls and also regularly counseling their parents.

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