31 Dec 2013

With Change Comes Trouble

YRC KYP Boys (2013)

Narrated by Group members of YRC KYP Boys and YRC Disha, Kuldia. Recorded by Krishna Goldar and Binita Chakraborty, 2nd October, 2013. Please see the brief note on MSC for a background on the process.

Unlike the other MSC stories in this blog, this one is compiled from testimonies of several group members and members of the community, all relating to the same set of incidents.

Village Kuldia is about 80 km from Kolkata, in Magarahata block of South-24-Parganas district. Our neighbourhood is called Sheikh Para, comprising entirely of about 100 Muslim families. Farming is the main occupation. Many Men and Women are also engaged in floriculture and zari work. Some men also do masonry or painting work, for which they travel to the city, and sometimes out of the country. This kind of work attracts lots of young boys too, but on the whole most children go to school./span>

Azharuddin Sheikh
25 years old. M.A. in History and taking tuitions at home. Youth Facilitator with TF. Main source of income is farming on family land. Family of four - Azhar, his wife, 2 year old daughter, mother. Two brothers, their wives and children live in the same house as separate families.

“A couple of years back, I created two groups in our neighbourhood – one for boys, called KYP Boys, of which I am a member, and the other for girls, called Disha. At first I had tried to create a single group with both boys and girls, but people objected; plus, some boys and girls were also not comfortable about sitting and talking together.
While the groups are separate, when we conduct any programme, members from both groups attend. A couple of members from each group were elected as Youth Fellows by TF, and got the opportunity of being trained on different subjects. Later they trained the other members of the group and conducted programmes in the para.

When we conducted a programme on our feelings and thoughts surrounding our para [Neighbourhood Diaries], most people supported us. But later when we started talking about the equal relationships between men and women, then conflicting opinions were aired. Some felt that it was very important to talk about this, while others felt that such topics went against our religion and had no place in our society.
From then on, both the groups have been going through a very hard time. But this has only increased the self-confidence of some members of the groups, including me. We are seeing the light of hope in the problem itself. The way we are questioning our own stereotypical patterns of thinking, in the same way we are feeling the need for society to change.

20 Dec 2013

Nabadisha : Many New Directions

[Durga Puja is the biggest festival in these parts. Not only is it celebrated with great fanfare in every street of the city, the festival is in fact celebrated all over the world wherever there is a Bengali community. Preparations begin months in advance, until finally, over ten days, the story of the mighty Mother Godess Durga unfolds. She is worshipped as the slayer of the most troublesome and evil demon in the universe. In the city, every neighbourhood proudly puts up their own installation for the different ceremonies. Community members accept it as their duty to contribute money to the local Puja committee. This community contribution is called Chanda in Bengali. It is collected door to door by men, who are usually the ones in charge. This is an account of how YRC Nabadisha challenged the norm. Excerpts from group interview with members Uma, Punam, Abhijit - recorded by Urbi Bhaduri, November 18, 2013]

Girls and Money!

“Our community Pujo is six or seven decades old, but in all these years, never before have women gone door to door collecting chanda from the para members.

Two things were different this year. We had an all girls team from Nabadisha who went to collect chanda; and Sharmishtha, a girl, was elected as the secretary of the Pujo Committee for the first time.”

Out of about 200 households in the para, only about 50 were okay to see the girls in this new unusual role. Most households were critical, even hostile to the girls.

“Have the boys all died, that they have sent you?”
“Why have you come?”
“Send those who are in charge.”
“Send the boys across later. We will pay then.”
“Don’t you have any work? Go back home.”

The girls quipped back. If it was inconvenient to pay now, they would return later — but not the boys. In the houses where they faced the most criticism, they invited the girls to come out too and collect chanda. In one house, an argument broke out when a family member said that rape was on the rise because women were getting more freedom.

18 Dec 2013

"Go alone" my mother said [msc]

Krishna Chowdhury, YRC Sobujer Abhijan
Youth Fellow (2012)

Narrated by Krishna Chowdhury, 15 years, YRC Sobujer Abhijan, Gabberia.
Recorded by Krishna Goldar and Binita Chakraborty, 2nd October, 2013. Please see the brief note on MSC for a background on the process.

Like other villages, our village too is surrounded with greenery. Most homes here are made of mud, just a few brickwork ones. My neighbourhood is called Chowdhury Para, named after a family, just like the other paras nearby; Halder Para, Mondol Para, etc. There are many Muslim families too, but they live quite a bit away in a different neighbourhood. People in most paras are quite familiar with each other, but not so with the Muslim families. The Muslim girls study with us in the same school, and so we talk a little bit, but that is the limit of our friendship.

Most men commute daily to Kolkata for work; some are engaged locally in farming or masonry. Women are mostly home makers, few earn through domestic work; many women are members of a self help group. Most children go to school. However, the freedom that boys get to go out to study or work, the girls do not. Girls face many restrictions; so they don't get the opportunities even if they really desire freedom.

In my family there are four - my parents, my sister and me. Ma works as a domestic help, and is also member of a self-help group. Baba does not have one permanent job. He does farming, masonry, painting, whatever is available. I'm in class nine, and my sister is in her third-year in college.

There were no youth clubs in our area. Maybe one, but that's only for boys. There is this theatre group named Jajabar [Itinerant]; they travel and put up plays in different places, but there's not a single girl from our area in that group. However, thanks to the initiative of a youth group in Namkahana, we had a camp here, which gradually led to the formation of our very own youth group. We've named it Sobujer Abhijan [Green Rush]. It's been a couple of years now, I've been a member right from the start, and now i'm an Youth Fellow [TF - YRC programme].

Through my group I found my voice, my confidence, and a sense of responsibility - both for myself and my peers. I learnt to travel far on my own, helped other girls to join the group, and talk about important issues that affect us. Along the way I have received a lot of support from my mother, and have found the courage to push at the boundaries.

14 Dec 2013

No Marriage Now

Narrated by Uma Singh, YRC Nabadisha, Lake Gardens, Kolkata. Recorded by Revathi, December, 2013.

Tina (left) with her friend
Tina lives in Gobindapur slum of Kolkata. Her father is a daily labourer and mother works as a domestic help. Tina has an elder brother. Her family shares a very small shanty with another family and live with very basic facilities. Tina’s mother is the bread earner of the family and is often overworked and stressed. Tina was often shouted at for little things.

Tina was 15 then and was in a relationship with a boy. She was a regular at the YRC support group meetings. She would share with the Peer Counsellor her status at home. She would, after every meeting, sit with the Peer Counselor to ask for suggestions on handling situations in her relationship. Tina’s partner was forcing her to marry with the promise of letting her continue with her studies. On the other hand her parents were against the relationship and restricting her movements.

During this time at the YRC, sessions on Child Marriage were being held. Tina remembers that at the session Peer Counsellor Punam would share the No Marriage Now booklet and they would hold discussions on marriage and about girls and boys being independent before they choose to marry. The adolescents had even taken an oath not to marry early and also motivate others to do the same.

After several sessions one day Tina shared with YRC members Punam and Uma that she was thinking of running away with her partner. At every session this thought would bother her and she was no longer able to keep it to herself and had to talk about it. Punam and Uma encouraged Tina to continue to attend the meetings and this would help her think more and in taking her own decisions. They would keep time to talk to Tina after every session. Tina’s board exams were around the corner.

Tina completed the sessions on child marriage and continued to attend the reproductive health trainings at the YRC. She convinced her partner that if theirs was a true relationship they could wait until she is a graduate and standing on her own feet.

After her board exams Tina moved on to Higher Secondary school, and was not be able to attend all the sessions at the YRC, but as a peer leader would motivate her peers to attend the support group sessions. Tina takes extra responsibility during the YRC camps, community events and even counsels her peers. She is keen to take up a Fellowship or any training and become a core group member of the Nabadisha YRC and become like Uma and Punam.

12 Dec 2013

Father and I [msc]

Pinki is a founder member of YRC
Alor Sandhan, Youth Fellow (2013)
This is the 2nd MSC story from the group
Read Rina's story

Narrated by Pinki Sardar, 25 years, YRC Alor Sandhan, Dum Dum.
Recorded by Krishna Goldar and Binita Chakraborty, 29th September, 2013. Please see the brief note on MSC for a background on the process.

I live in Birsa-Munda Pally near the airport. In my family there are my parents, my younger brother and me. My mother is a member of a local self-help group and a homemaker. My father works as a driver, and has to often stay out of the city because of his job. I am in 1st year college and my brother is still in school.

Most residents of our neighbourhood belong to the tribal community. Though it is a part of the city, our neighbourhood has lots of trees, green fields and ponds that give it a restful, rural ambience. Most houses are made of mud; but Government assistance has made it possible for many cement houses to come up as well.

Most men and women work as daily labourers, women work as house-maids. Some people work in a soya-bean factory nearby. Young people are mostly going to school, but then again many are also dropping out due to different reasons.

Amidst all these, a new thing has happened here in our neighbourhood. It has been two years now that we, the young people of the locality, have built a youth group here. The group is called Alor Sandhan [Finding Light]. Many boys and girls, starting from age 10 onwards, are a part of this group. The group is playing a noticeably important role in many of their lives. The effect of the group is reflecting in my life as well. It is because of the group that I am succeeding in making my personal relationships easier, more honest, and stronger. I want to tell everybody about these changes.

The biggest change that has happened in me is the development of a strong belief that no one should be judged solely on the basis of one kind of behaviour that they exhibit, and that discussions have the power to solve any kind of problem.