27 Oct 2014

My Leadership Journey - Tahsina

Tahsina is member of YRC Roshni
Youth facilitator (2014)
Read her earlier post
I am Tahsina Bano, 25 years old. I belong to a Muslim family from Rajabazar. In my locality, most of the boys are into small businesses like making envelopes, paper plates and chappals. The women are mostly housewives, and they keep themselves busy with small jobs like stitching, binding books, and making boxes. Here most girls get an education. But they study not to get a job or build their career. They are given an education so that they can get married into a good household.
At home I have my Ammi, Abbu, three brothers, one sister-in-law and my sister. Two of my brothers and my elder sister are already married.
My childhood
I remember that one day from my childhood very well. I was just 3 years old at that time. Ammi had held my fingers and taken me to school. I had seen those school gates for the first time in my life, and written a test for the very first time. I had written alif on the slate, holding the chalk in my tiny fingers. Seeing this, the teacher praised me a lot and admitted me in that school. At that time, I had no idea that there was a difference between Urdu-medium and English-medium. When I saw my elder sister going to school, I used to feel very good and I too would wish to put on a frock and a tie like her, and go to school. The first time I was got ready for school, I was made to put on a salwar-kameez, jumper and dupatta. I did not like it at all!

26 Oct 2014

My Leadership Journey - Anjana

Anjana is the founder member
of YRC "Youth Voice"
Read her earlier post
My name is Anjana. I live in the VIP Nagar area of Kolkata. I grew up in the same area. Our parents raised us with a lot of love and care.

My father was a freedom fighter. He used to tell me a lot of inspiring stories about our country, and I had a lot of dreams for myself. Baba used to say, “One day you will grow up and start working.” I wasn’t a very mischievous child, and I loved to play.

When I was 10 years old, one evening my mother was filling oil into a hurricane lamp while it was still burning. Suddenly the lamp tilted over, and there was a fire in which Ma got burnt badly. She was immediately taken to a hospital, and had to stay there for the next 3 months. From this time on, my playtime got reduced drastically. Since my elder sister had to stay with Ma in the hospital, and my younger sister was still very young, the responsibility of all the housework fell upon me. I couldn’t focus on my studies either.

When Ma got well and returned home, we again started living a life with its fair share of joy and laughter for a number of years. But suddenly another bad day came for us. My father passed away just after I had written my BA final year examinations. This was a huge setback, but still it made me think all the more that I would make something of my life, I would go on. Baba himself had told me to work. His words gave me strength and resolve to a large extent.

My Leadership Journey - Pranay

Pronoy is a member of YRC "GSRI"
Youth Facilitator (2014)
Read his earlier post

I’m Pronoy. I live in a remote village area of Namkhana where the companions of most people, by day, is agriculture, and by night, light from kerosene lamps. My mother is an ICDS worker, my father makes furniture, my brother sometimes stays away from home for work, and sometimes grows vegetables in the field. My sister-in-law has qualified the P.T.F. for becoming a policewoman in the state government, and is currently preparing for her written exams.

I am the younger son in this family, and I am a second-year student under Kolkata University.
My childhood
When I was 5 years old, my father and his brother used to stay in a joint family system. I don’t know why, but all our relationships were strained at that point of time, and unrest in the family was a part of daily life. Baba used to hit out at Ma physically for the smallest of things. I remember going away to my maternal uncles’ house several times with Ma, crying and holding on to her sari. I used to hurt for Ma, yet I didn’t know what to say to Baba also. My world then was my only my neighbourhoood. And because my existence was bound by such narrow walls, I used to think that my father hurting my mother was perhaps natural.

In this way, my education started right from my mother’s kitchen. In primary school, in the breaks between study, I used to take apart the household electronics items to see what was inside. When my father came to catch me at it, I would run away. If I was scolded too much, I would stop eating. Then my parents would again resume being openly affectionate and cajole me to eat. Too much mollycoddling had made a mischievous monkey out of me. But in classes III and IV, I still managed to come first in class on a regular basis.

My Leadership Journey - Sangita

Sangita is a youth facilitator (2014)
Read her earlier post
I am Sangita. I am a youth facilitator at Thoughtshop Foundation. I have been associated with TF’s Youth Leadership journey for the last two years. This has been a big learning experience for me.
Today I am remembering my childhood a lot. I liked to have a lot of fun. Though I wasn’t a very obedient child, I was obedient as far as studies were concerned. Actually I liked studying. I was quite good in studies. I used to be among the top ten in my class.

When I was 4 or 5 years old, I used to gather all my friends early every morning and go out to play in the sand. After I returned home, I used to get scolded by my parents, and sometimes get beaten up. One day when I had returned from play, my mother found my scalp prickling with sand particles. That day I was neither beaten, nor scolded. My punishment was that all my hair was shaved off. I was small and could not protest, though I felt angry. Why didn’t anyone even ask me once before shaving off my hair? Because they were grown-ups, were they permitted to do anything they pleased? However, this did not stop me from playing in the sand.

25 Oct 2014

My Leadership Journey - Punam

Punam Sadhukhan
Youth Mentor, YRC Nabadisha (2011)
Read her earlier post

My name is Punam Sadhukhan, and I am a student of BA 3rd year. I stay in Gobindopur, in the Lake Gardens area of Kolkata. My mother works as a domestic help and my elder brother works as a driver. The financial situation of our family nowadays is a little better than before.
About 20 years ago, when I was just about 5-6 years old, I used to always be missing my mother, who would be working all day even then, and I hardly saw her. Every evening I used to sit on the ledge of the tea-shop beside our house, waiting to see her when she returned from work. Some days I fell asleep there, waiting. Again, early in the morning, even before I woke up, Ma would have left. This happened nearly every day.

If any of the days I happened to wake up before Ma had left the house, I used to start crying, wanting to be taken along with her. Ma tried to distract me in many ways. But I kept on insisting! And so some days she took me along, some days she didn’t. When she didn’t, I continued to cry. And even when she did, it did not bring a fountain of joy to my life. It didn’t do me any good to tag along to the house where Ma worked. I was always a very restless child. So, though I could stay close to Ma on those days, her employers would tick her off badly because of my mischievous ways. And so Ma used to keep me tied up with a rope. I did not like this at all, it was very painful.

My Leadership Journey - Azhar

Azhar is the founder member
of YRC "KYP Boys"
Read his earlier post

I am Azhar. My family consists of my daughter, my wife, me, my elder brother, my sister-in-law and their children. I am the youngest of four brothers and four sisters. We used to be a big family when we lived together. Now everyone lives in separate families.

Right from birth, I have grown up in the village of Kuldiya in Mograhat. My father died in an accident when I was only 5 years old. A few years later, when I was studying in class II of the village school, my brother and his wife moved out and started living in a separate household. With this, the financial situation of our family dipped. My brother and his family started living in comparative comfort, but we felt poverty in our home.

Worrying about how to make ends meet made my mother cry every day, and with her, I too would cry. Life went on like this. In the happy days of Eid, I used to watch others enjoying themselves, burning firecrackers. I had no way to do these things, so I just used to watch them and cry. I used to think that had I had someone to bring me firecrackers, how happy my life would be! When I recall these memories, I'm also filled with a sense wonder at how much my life has changed.

31 Aug 2014

My Leadership Journey - Shampa

Shampa is a member of YRC Ujaan
Read her earlier post

From childhood, I have lived in the city of Kolkata with my parents, a younger brother and a sister. We belong to a poor family. We siblings don’t have much of a difference in age. When we were small, our parents used to leave my siblings in my care when they went out to work. I used to look after them, take them to school.

In childhood, I couldn’t make much time for play, and this made me very angry. When I was in class 1 I used to go to a small neighbourhood club. I really like going there, because I had many friends there. I played games with them and had fun. There used to be a teacher and an older man there, whom we called ‘uncle’. After the teacher left, the uncle would play with us. He would buy us food. After a while he would let everyone leave, except for me. He used to say that he would give me lot of playthings, and this made me very happy. Then he used to shut all the doors and windows of the club, take me in his lap, give me goodies and toys, and fondle me. At that time I understood nothing; nor did I tell anyone anything. This happened almost daily with me for over two years.

12 Jul 2014

My Leadership Journey - Krishna

Krishna is a founder member of YRC Ujaan,
Youth Trainer.Read her earlier post

In this photo, Krishna has just arrived in
Bangkok to share this story as a resource
person for Oxfam's Gender Leadership
Programme, June 2014

I am Krishna Goldar. My home is in Gobindopur bustee, Kolkata. I am a founder member and the secretary of Ujaan group. I feel very proud to say this - we, the boys and girls of my neighbourhood, have created this group ourselves! I am also a youth trainer at Thoughtshop Foundation.
We used to live in our own house in New Barrackpore, a suburb of Kolkata. All three of us siblings went to school. Our mother stayed home spent time with us and helped us with our studies. Our father ran his own meat shop. After working all day, he would play cards and drink with his friends. If we ever made a mistake, he would shower blows on our backs, just like the drummers who vigorously beat their drums with their sticks during puja time. We used to be mortally scared of his anger. We never dared to speak to him. Yet it was a happy time, we used to study and play as children should.

Once when we were visiting our uncle’s house during Kali Puja, a conflict ensued - my father and his brother had a violent fight. As a consequence of this, our lives changed overnight. We never returned to our beautiful house again.

My Leadership Journey - Shahina

Shahina is founder member of YRC Roshni
Read her earlier post
I live in the Rajabazar area of Kolkata in a Muslim community where the boys do small odd jobs here and there, and girls are housewives; the boys do not study much, but the girls study very hard as they need to get married into good families. At home, I live with my parents and three brothers.
I wanted to Fly
As a child, my whole day was spent playing with my brothers – cricket, hide and seek or flying kites together. My life also was like a kite – sometimes I would watch myself soar in the open sky flying freely; and sometimes I would withdraw, wound up like line around the reel.

My name is Shahina. It means a bird which flies in very high altitudes. I also wanted to fly. From a very young age, I used to be the leader of my group. When we went out to play, everyone came out and joined.
I am a Girl!
I remember the day I realized for the first time that I was a girl, and the freedom my brothers enjoyed could never be granted to me. My friends were outside my house, calling to me to come out and play. My mother said that if I went out, she would cut off my feet. “Now you have grown up. You cannot play outside anymore.” When I asked why my brothers were allowed to go out, my mother responded, “They are boys!” This one answer my mother gave me generated a thousand questions in my mind. This was the beginning of my life as a woman, and I was being stopped in my tracks at this initial juncture. There was so much left to do!

My Leadership Journey - Papiya

Papiya is a member of YRC Youth Voice

I am Papiya Mondol, 20 years old. In my family, there are my parents, my younger brother and my paternal grandmother. Up until I was 6 years old, I lived in Krishnanagar, in my mother’s maiden home, because ever since my mother got married, my paternal grandmother didn’t let her daughter-in-law live in her house. My father works in the BSF, and whenever he would come home on his holidays, he came to Krishnanagar.

I think I started facing life’s first challenges from then. In school, my friends asked me where my home was, and they laughed when I told them my mothers home address. They said, “That is your uncle’s home! Don’t you have your own home?”

My Leadership Journey - Piyali

Piyali is a member of YRC Drishtikon,
Peer Counsellor
Read her earlier post
I am Piyali Paul and I live in a small neighbourhood near Dumdum Airport. There are four members in my family – my mother, my two younger brothers and me. Our family is very poor. Ma cooks in people’s houses; I do tuitions, teach dance to kids and work as a Youth Facilitator. My brothers sometimes work as labour. All of us earn our own livelihood, we support our own education.

If I’m asked the story of my life, I want to say first that I don’t like to think back to my childhood at all. There are a few things which I like to think back upon – like climbing trees, going out to play in the evenings and stealing guavas on the way back from school – these were fun things. But my childhood was much more than these, more painful. I have seen my father only twice in my life. I used to asked my mother, “Ma, where is my father?” Ma used to say, “He lives apart from us – I don’t know where.” Once my father had returned, but he went away again, leaving a lot of debts for Ma to pay back.

My Leadership Journey - Uma

Uma is founder member of YRC Nabadisha
Youth Trainer
Read her earlier post

My name is Uma. I live with my parents and two sisters in a bustling area in the city of Kolkata. The people here grapple with a lot of problems, yet try to live together with a smile on their faces.

Though my younger sister and I came into this world instead of the desired male children, still despite many financial problems, our parents never neglected us. We grew up amidst of a lot of love and freedom. Perhaps it was because we were three daughters and there was no boy in the family that we failed to realize in our childhoods how society discriminates between boys and girls. And perhaps this was the reason why I was a little different from childhood, meaning, a little different from a typical girl.

As a child, I hardly had any friends who were girls. I would climb trees like the boys, ride bicycles, collect money from our neighbours during the pujas and enjoy the boisterous celebrations with the others. Thinking back, I feel that I also gravitated more towards boys rather than girls in search of the free life that boys enjoy, unhindered by obstacles.

When we were small, our father had to be frequently away from home because of work, and so mother had to face the challenge of bringing up three daughters more or less singlehandedly. So we learnt to be self-reliant and take care of ourselves. There were many instances where we felt deprived. I remember taking a three rupee Parle-G biscuit packet as school tiffin; out of 12 biscuits, 6 would be for me, and 6 for my elder sister.

My Leadership Journey - Bandana

Bandana is a member of YRC Ujaan
Youth Facilitator

I am Bandana Makhal. I stay in a small slum in Gobindopur in Kolkata’s Lake Gardens area. We are three siblings. My elder brother and younger sister are both married. My brother stays separately with his wife and kids in our house in Garia. My sister got married last year, and she stays with her in-laws. So now, at home, there is me and there are my parents. My father is a mason and my mother works as a domestic help.
Our financial situation was not good. As a child, my brother was only interested playing and my sister remained busy with housework. None of them took that much of an interest in studies. But I was always keen on studies. Most of the day, I would sit immersed in my books. I would rarely go out or interact with our neighbours. My dream ever since childhood was to teach in a school. So whenever we friends would play at being teacher and student, I used to hang a towel from my head and pretend it was my long hair hanging down my back. I would be the teacher and the rest of my friends be my students.

6 Apr 2014

Lakhi is back in School

Narrated by Sabita Das, YRC Swapno, Namkhana. Recorded by Revathi, April, 2014.
Family Background
Lakhi lives in Narayanpur village of Namkhana in South 24 Parganas District. Lakhi’s father was a farmer, and with his sudden demise, the family had to face difficult times. Two of Lakhi’s brothers had to give up studies to work as rickshaw pullers or doing odd jobs. The third brother was good in his studies so continued to go to school after doing odd jobs after school. Lakhi’s mother continued as a housewife and also took charge of the little land that the family owned.
About Lakhi
Lakhi failed Class VIII that year. With the family fighting hard to make ends meet, Lakhi’s education was not a priority. With not much support at home or in school Lakhi continued to do poorly in school. Tuitions were not helpful for her, as the teacher would punish her badly. Her mother thought it was better for Lakhi to help with the household chores rather than pursue studies. By now the family had also started thinking about her marriage.

Sabita met Lakhi while doing the survey with adolescents in the village. Lakhi sounded very angry, irritated and helpless. She had no control over the situations and decisions in her life. She was starting to distance herself from everybody.
Intervention by peer counselor
Sabita Das
Read a post by her

Sabita started communicating with Lakhi. She coaxed her to attend the support group meetings held every week.

At the support group meetings Lakhi along with the other adolescents also participated in the Self Exploration sessions and used the Exploring My World Workbook.

At the same time Sabita and other YRC core group members started talking to Lakhi’s mother about her studies. They discussed Lakhi’s lack of support in her studies that was making her perform badly in school. They also spoke about how education would help Lakhi in the future. With continuous visits the mother agreed to put her back in school.

Sabita and the YRC had to work very hard to get Lakhi readmitted into school. First, was to encourage Lakhi to go back to school; by now Lakhi was reluctant feeling that her teachers and friends would ridicule her; Second, she needed her family support to continue; Third, Sabita offered to help Lakhi with her studies without which Lakhi wouldn’t be able to cope!

With Sabita’s constant support Lakhi has remained in school and is going to take her board exams in February 2016. Lakhi plays the role of the Peer Leader in the support group meetings. Sabita keeps in constant touch with Lakhi and her mother with regular visits.

Sabita feels that though Lakhi is continuing her studies, she needs more support to help her with a direction and goal in her life and build her self esteem

21 Feb 2014

Lost And Found

Abhijit is a member of YRC Nabadisha
My name is Abhijit, and I am 24 years old. My name means 'The Victorious', one who forges ahead with the enthusiasm to win. My home is in Notundeyara-Garia, but most of the time I stay with my aunt in the Gobindopur area of Kolkata. I have a group here, called Nabadisha. Nabadisha is a second home to me, because I am able to interact very freely with its members, they support me a lot and pay heed to all my emotions — my anger and sadness and pain at being hurt by loved ones. We are not related by blood, but definitely share a mental connection.

I feel quite distanced from my own family, because my thought process and theirs have no similarity. From childhood, my father used to live away from us because of work, and between us we have never had an understanding.
But my mother is like a friend — she is the one I hold closest to my heart. It is her that I love most of all; she is the one who encourages me and supports me in everything. Though my parents are close to each other, when my father sometimes behaves in a way that shows violence towards her, I cannot take it at all. I try to make him understand but he doesn’t; he starts behaving badly with me too.

18 Feb 2014

What Makes Me Happy

Shama is a member of YRC Roshni
My name is Shama. In my community, girls need to be under purdah and are not encouraged to venture out of their four walls; girls are told that the more they stay at home, the better it is. My community tells girls to come out only under purdah and to walk with downcast eyes, not to look out too much at the world, otherwise they would lose the glow of their beauty. All this is said in my community.

I too used to believe in all these things. After I joined the group Roshni [Urdu: Light], I started feeling how wrong these things were — these things that society says. From then on, I started not believing in these things. I learnt that in society, girls should get the same rights as boys. Both should be treated equally. There is a very different kind of feeling in me now. I have put an end to the fear within me, and have prepared myself well.

17 Feb 2014

Equality in Relationships

Uma is the founder member of
YRC Nabadisha (2009), Change Maker,
Youth Trainer ('09)
Through the years, I have built up a distinct identity for myself through my work. My work has empowered me a lot — it has taught me to speak clearly and confidently; to not only think about myself, but also of others in challenging situations; to try and resolve conflicts; not to be silent, but to speak up. It has taught me to take responsibility. I still talk individually to the different families in my neighbourhood, so that girls in my area don’t have to deal with violence.

But when my own marriage got fixed for 5th July, 2012, along with joyous anticipation, I was also filled with apprehension for the unknown.

Ever since childhood, I have heard that marriage means sacrificing a lot according to the dictates of society. Taking permission before stepping out of home, eating only after all your in-laws have eaten, things like that. I thought of women after marriage being like fairies with their wings clipped; appearing fairy-like to the world, but to oneself — stripped of her wishes, dependent on others, and neglected. I wondered whether I would be able to live as freely as before.

11 Feb 2014

A Boy's Point of View

Deep is a member of YRC Drishtikon

I am part of the community of males spread over the whole world. From childhood I have learnt from my environment and from society that as a Man, I have to be strong and clever; I must study well, earn well, and support my family. I also have to participate in society and work towards its prosperity.

But from the time that my mind started to expand, from the time when I learnt to open its doors and windows and analyse society — and the things that it causes to happen — with a combination of knowledge, logic and emotion, from that time on I have been very concerned about this male perspective.

From the time I learnt to read the paper or watch news on TV, I have been hearing some words repeatedly — Eve-teasing, Rape etc. What bothers me is that in almost all cases, it is men who are doing it, and women are the fearful victims. Barasat, Park Street, Delhi, Kamduni, Sutiya, are all cases that have stirred me, to name only a few. These things have happened before, are happening now, irrespective of whether the location is urban or rural. Many don’t ever reach the headlines.

One such incident happens, it sparks off a nationwide protest. Committees are set up, meetings held, some block the roads or take out rallies. “We want justice, We want punishment for the guilty” echo out from the corners of the country. The police is put under pressure, and sometimes the guilty is caught. The process of justice commences, slowly. But the disease is not cured. After a few days, things repeat themselves. Again voices are heard “Put an end to rape”, “We want justice” and “Punishment for the guilty”. Actually the disease cannot be cured thus; its seeds are very deeply embedded.

In our patriarchal system, many small crimes keep happening against women, in the course of their daily lives, and most are not even counted as ‘violence’. For example, girls should not dream of riding a bike, they should ride a scooty instead. Both husband and wife may be working, but after returning from work it is always the wife who should cook and serve the man. Though girls nowadays are getting many more opportunities for education than earlier, education for women is often not so much for social productivity, as it is for getting a good match in marriage. We remain blind to these crimes, too accustomed to them, to think that these too are forms of violence, and that eve-teasing and rape are more serious forms of the same violence.

No More Stepping Back

Pinki is a founder member of YRC Alor Sandhan
this is her second post
read her earlier post

Our group, Alor Sandhan, has 25 members; boys and girls from different socio-economic backgrounds, from different castes, and differently-abled people. I have many dreams for my group. I want it to be known not only to people of my neighbourhood, but to people from all the villages in our area. We want to do something for society, something that would make everyone proud of us.

The group is a place of opportunities — here we keep having new experiences. We want everyone to have access to these opportunities and experiences. We think ourselves capable of solving any social conflict. Our group helps people to start living anew and to make progress in their lives.

Alor Sandhan started about two years back. I have been able to know myself and create myself afresh after becoming a part of the group. Earlier I was very confused and hesitant about expressing myself. I used to be scared of travelling alone and of standing up and protesting against bad situations. I remember a long time back I was travelling with my parents to my aunt’s house. A boy in the bus had caught hold of my hand and was trying something dirty with me. I wanted to give him a big slap but could not — I was afraid. If I said something to him, what if he accused me in return! What would people think of me!

That day I could neither say anything, nor could I shift from that place because the bus was terribly crowded. That day I couldn’t protest, but after joining the group, I have become much more courageous, my shyness has reduced, and my thought process has also changed. Now I do not step back from anything.

9 Feb 2014

How I Learnt To Love My Mother in law

Anjana is the founder member
of YRC Youth Voice (2011)
TF Youth Trainer since '10

Before I was married, my home was in VIP-Nagar, beside the EM Bypass. Here I worked with young people, especially girls in my neighbourhood, and started a group called Youth Voice. I would discuss issues like self exploration, reproductive health and the difficulties of child marriage with young people here. Many of them called me Pishi [Aunt], and looked to me for emotional support. I was also an active Change maker as part of the We Can Campaign.

My mother raised me and our large joint family with a lot of love. She would always say “Whatever work you’re going out to do, do it well and come back. Do not worry about housework, it will get done somehow.” Because she said this every time, I was able to focus on my work and go anywhere I liked with a free mind.

Perhaps it was those experiences that helped me through a difficult time in my life.

Basu and I got married in the December of 2011. That was the happiest moment of my life. We shifted to Kachrapara, and started our new life with a lot of hope. But within a couple of days of my marriage, a suffocating web of do’s and don’ts closed in on me. I never imagined that I would have to face these stereotypical situations.

1 Feb 2014

The Day My Life Changed

Mousumi Majumdar
member - Drishtikon YRC

We had a very happy life till the time my father was alive. He passed away on 11th December, 2001, and that was the time all our troubles started.

I was in class 9 then. My grandmother used to stay with us and look after my brother, and I used to go out to my tuitions. Sometimes I was late returning from class and if any boy ever escorted me back home, grandma did not like it. She told my mother to arrange my marriage quickly.

I was only 13 years old when I was married. I was not at all in favour of it, and had a number of fights with my mother on this issue, but the marriage did take place after all. Once, when I told my mother that I didn’t want to get married, she said "everyone had already been invited and there was nothing I can do to change it". I was confused, so I resigned myself to going along with what my family thought was best for me.

The day of my marriage didn’t feel any different. I was having a lot of fun, roaming around with my cousins and friends. Everyone was giving me presents and so I was very happy. But with the ceremony where they smear turmeric on the bride-to-be, I started feeling tearful, a nervous trembling set in my hands and body. I came to realise later that the person with whom I was married was not normal at all. He had an odd way of behaving. When he was putting the vermillion in the parting of my hair, my forehead got cut and started bleeding.