International Women’s Day this time is quite special for the eight community girls from Smile Foundation. They are by now ‘Swabhiman Role Models’ in their communities. So what’s that they have been waiting for this day?
Reena, Rubina, Babita, Sona, Kiran, Chandrakala, Sameera and Sunita, are just eight of the trained catalysts of Swabhiman programme from Smile Foundation, who in their teens, have already achieved the status of ‘role models’ in their communities and are getting trained to be ‘change makers’ in future
‘Inspiration’ is the theme on this International Women’s Day for the unsung girls in the communities where Smile Foundation has been working through its programme named ‘Swabhiman’ – meaning self respect in Hindi. Swabhiman is a programme for empowerment and development of underprivileged girls and women. Swabhiman is working for a population of 80,000 in Delhi and 60,000 in rural Haryana.
Dr. Kiran Bedi spent quality time with the ‘Smile Role Models’ with interaction, advise, sharing experience and giving them tips on how to lead other girls and women in their respective communities.
“I feel that the root cause of all problems faced by women will be solved if they become economically self dependant,” said Dr. Kiran Bedi. “Decision making without bothering about social approvals is another solution for Indian women, particularly in low communities, to lead a life with self respect.”
Dr. Bedi also advised Smile Foundation to work more on social security of the community girls and women so that they could live in a much better environment. Apart from formal and non formal education which Smile Foundation has been carrying out, Dr. Bedi advised distant education and increasing mental IQ by utilizing time in reading newspapers and also watching news should be encouraged.
During the interactive session, Dr. Kiran Bedi appreciated the good work being done by the Smile Community Girls and also encouraged them to continue with the same in future as well. Smile Role Models emerge from among the Community Girls.
A week long drive and campaign is being carried out in all over Swabhiman areas in Delhi. Nukkad natak (street play), role plays, songs, interactions etc. under the theme ‘Inspiration’ are going on, targeting adolescent girls directly and their influence groups like boys, elderly, children etc. indirectly.
Themes of the campaign are related to new mothers, nutrition and health rights of women, awareness against female foeticide, decision making power, basic health and hygiene, gender issues etc.
Smile Foundation is running its Swabhiman programme for adolescent girls and women in various underprivileged communities since 2005. In the process, adolescent girls are selected regularly and trained properly to emerge as ‘Swabhiman Role Models’ and ‘Master Trainers’ in their communities. They have been setting examples in the communities, and in the process inspiring others to ensure respect for girl child.
The objective of the special drive on International Women’s Day is to bring these ‘Role Models’ into the focus so that they can act as ‘inspiration’ for other girls.
Dr. Kiran Bedi, an inspiration for all men and women in relation with women empowerment, has invited a select group of eight ‘Swabhiman Role Models’ to her residence to act as an ‘inspiration’ and celebrate International Women’s Day in a special way for these unsung achievers in various communities.
Brief about the selected eight ‘Swabhiman Role Models’ from various communities of Delhi, invited by Dr. Kiran Bedi, are as follow:
Week long advocacy campaigns going on as part of International Women’s Day celebration by Swabhiman
Age: 18 years
Sona, born to a conservative family, was married without her consent at a tender age of 14 years to a person who was abusive. She was tortured and ill treated almost on daily basis.
Then, she came to know about Smile’s Swabhiman and started attending counseling and training sessions of Smile Swabhiman. Gradually she became aware of her rights and mustered up courage to divorce her ill tempered husband.
Today she works as a domestic help and during her spare time counsels and motivates other women to come out of exploitation and suffering. She is also planning to enroll herself in an adult education programme and improve her prospects through education.
Age: 16 years
Kiran had to discontinue her education after 8th class as her parents did not want to support her education beyond middle school due to financial constraints and societal pressures. Little Kiran was inconsolable when she was told by her parents that because of her gender, she could not study further as her parents otherwise would not be able to find a match for her. They also told her that they do not have enough money to send her to school as they have to educate their sons.
Kiran came into contact with Swabhiman team who were visiting her community. She started attending the counseling sessions of Swabhiman. Kiran enlightened by the counseling sessions, decided to sponsor her own education through the earnings she would make by teaching students of junior classes. Kiran today is not only continuing with her education but is also working as a volunteer for Swabhiman and motivating girls her age to raise their voice against wrong done to them.
Age: 26 years
Reena, a victim of early marriage and exploitation fought of all adversities to study and stand up on her own feet. Today she is employed as a CHE (Community Health Educator) in Swabhiman and devotes her entire time in educating other suffering women about their rights and inspires them to lead a life of independence and worth.
Age: 15 years
Babita is another active volunteer of Smile Swabhiman who was earlier exploited by some frustrated male relatives of her village. After coming in contact with Swabhiman her life changed for better. Today Babita moves about in her community and educates them on how not to get exploited and defend themselves.
Age: 21 years
Chandrakala is associated with Smile Swabhiman as a Community Health Educator. She has studied till the XII standard. Chandrakala looks after her ailing father who is currently suffering from Tuberculosis and has not been employed for the last 7 months. She also looks after her sister’s three children who are no more. Thanks to the counseling sessions of Swabhiman, Chandrakala always wears a smile on her face despite all her hardships. She has attended extensive trainings on HIV/AIDS. She enjoys her work and spreads awareness on issues concerning women such as on safe motherhood, gender discrimination, nutrition, sexual abuse etc.
Age: 17 years
Rubina wanted to study like her brothers but her father packed her off to her granny’s home against her wishes. Courageous as she was, she learnt farming and started working on the farm. She used the money earned through farming to further her studies. Today Rubina is not only a confident young girl who is aware of her rights but she also works as a volunteer of Swabhiman and encourages girls of her village to take up education seriously and know their rights.
Age: 14 years
Sameera lost her elder brother and father in an accident a few years back. She works as a sweeper in Chhattarpur temple during the morning and attends her school during the day. After school hours she works as a volunteer for Swabhiman and spreads awareness on the importance of education among the girls of her community.
Age: 18 years
Sunita used to work as a domestic help in a bungalow. She had come into contact with Smile Foundation team when they had gone to her community. She was a regular in all the counselling and training sessions of SMILE’s Swabhiman programme. One day her employer tried to molest her. Enraged, she picked up a broom and started beating her employer and also ran out of the bungalow to raise an alarm. She forced her employer to seek an apology from her in front of his wife. This incident in her life made her join Swabhiman as a volunteer. She now goes about the village telling them how to lead a dignified life, despite being community women.
Swabhiman, launched in August 2005, is an effort from Smile Foundation focusing on welfare and empowerment of girl child and women. The programme reaches out to more about 1, 40, 000 population.