VOLUME 1 - 2018

Smile Foundation

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IN FOCUS 2

Earning Respect for Family is Poonam's Swabhiman

W hether you fall or fail, whether you cry or sob, all you can look forward to is that your father believes in you. He picks you up, brushes you off, and lets you try again. My father will always be my hero. For years, my father has worked on daily wages and with the little money that he earned; he could only afford two-time food for the three of us. Every month, the landlord would threaten us to leave the house if we don’t pay the rent on time. But, despite the struggles, he never gave up on his dream to educate me. He wanted to send me to school, to educate me. He wanted them to stand in front of people with dignity. He never wanted anyone to look down upon them like how everyone did to him.

My father did all kinds of small jobs in his life to survive with his family. Sometimes he worked as a labour on construction sites, sometimes he worked on small shops as a helper, and sometimes he did loading and unloading of goods in factories. He was bound to respect everyone – those who

were older than him and also those who were very younger than him. On the other hand people insulted him for being uneducated and poor. He invested every penny of his earnings for my education. He never bought a new shirt or new footwear for himself. He used to borrow old books from neighbours and give them to me. He says society respects educated people, and I always wanted to earn that respect for him.

My father remained quiet about his arthritis. He continued doing hard labour work, without having a single dose of medicine or even letting my mother know. When he visited the doctor, he came to know that it was too late. His arthritis turned chronic and he was asked not to do physical work. He was heartbroken and I could feel his desperation to work again. It has been several months since my mother has started working as a maid. I have seen both of them never giving up on me, on their work, or on each other. I want to study very hard and want to prove to them that I value their efforts and will never let them down. My blessing is to see them happy with each other, and my only prayer is to never let these smiles fade away from their faces.”

-Poonam

Poonam was identified during a door-to-door visit by Smile Foundation’s community mobilisers in Shashi Garden, New Delhi. She is one of the 250 extremely talented girls from urban slum clusters in India who have received scholarship to complete their schooling and higher studies under Smile Foundation’s girl child and women empowerment programme Swabhiman.

Awarding merit-based scholarships, the Swabhiman programme of Smile Foundation has empowered the lives of adolescent girls by giving them the gift of higher studies to achieve their dreams. Many of these girls are now pursuing their graduation from reputed colleges and universities across India.

The girls are all first generation learners. Their parents are mainly engaged as domestic help, drivers, street vendors and daily wagers. The prevailing gender bias clubbed with the trap of child marriage makes it difficult for these girls to even attend schools. It is also the determination and hard work of each one of these girls which has made them overcome all these obstacles.

The Swabhiman scholars are further educated on aspects like critical and creative thinking, interpersonal relations, decision making and problem solving, advocacy, conflict management skills, negotiation and refusal, reproductive health, gender-based violence, goal setting, and coping with emotions and stress. Inculcating these qualities in the girls has enabled them to become agents of change in their communities, inspiring others and spreading awareness about the importance of holistic education for girls.

Regular exposure visits and knowledge exchange programmes are conducted for the scholars including tours of vocational training institutes, television and media networks, interactive activities with employees of corporate offices, and historical and cultural excursions. Interesting and innovative interventions such as theatre workshops, motivational talks with women achievers, and life skill training sessions by experts are held round the year to enhance the confidence of the girl scholars and ensure their over-all development

Swabhiman Scholars interacted with Acid attack survivor, social worker and motivational speaker Laxmi Agarwal

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