Dholpur Had a Terrible Record of Gender Discrimination. Today It Is a Model Village in Rajasthan.

This article is part of a series that covers the finalists of the HCL Grant & is made possible by HCL.

Prayatn Sanstha has implemented 16 programmes on health, gender sensitisation, education, and livelihood promotion in 512 villages across Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh in the last couple of decades. Read their story below.

According to the 2001 Census, Dholpur district in Rajasthan had the dubious distinction of having one of the lowest sex ratios in the country – 827 females per 1,000 males. Child marriage, domestic violence and female foeticide were common occurrences in the region.

However, Dholpur is not the same place it used to be anymore.

Today, women here are speaking up against discrimination and the deeply ingrained patriarchal system that has been prevalent for far too long.

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Photo source: Picasa

“One of them even told me that she has become so confident that she doesn’t mind seeking legal aid at the state or national level. That’s the kind of change that has happened among the women here,” says Yogesh Jain, Programme Director at Prayatn Sanstha.

Prayatn Sanstha was founded by social worker Malay Kumar and a group of other like-minded social development professionals in 1992. On looking into the dismal sex ratio in Dholpur district, the team found that females are discriminated against right from the time they are born until their death.

They are at risk of being aborted as foetuses. As girls, they are denied nutrition and healthcare that boys have access to. As adolescents, they face the risk of being made to drop out of school. As teenagers, they face the possibility of an early marriage. And after marriage, they are susceptible to domestic violence.

“We realised the need for a holistic intervention system. When we saw these women suffer discrimination right from when they are born, we knew that we had to tackle these issues at every level,” says Yogesh.

To address the issue of low sex ratio, the organisation started conducting rapport-building exercises in the villages.

Training workshops on gender equality for men, women, and children were held regularly.

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Photo source: Picasa

‘Balika Sathi,’ a cadre of women, was formed to take up the issue of gender discrimination. This cadre also established resource centres to provide information on sexual health as well as women’s reproductive and legal rights.

As sex-selective abortions were rampant in the region, Prayatn Sanstha focussed on engaging with health professionals and the administration. In 2006, it conducted a study on the ‘Status and Effectiveness of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act Implementation in Rajasthan’. In 2007, the Government of Rajasthan accepted the study and, based on its recommendations, formed a PCPNDT State Cell.

Slowly, the government started cracking down on doctors who were practising illegal sex determination. Over 20 doctors have been suspended since.

“We should never underestimate the power of an organised community. We were just sowing the seeds back in 2001. To act against domestic violence, we facilitated the formation of a network of women groups. Today, these groups have emerged as the biggest support to women in these villages. These are forums for them to share their experiences and strengthen their negotiating power,” says Yogesh.

Another major change that can be found in Dholpur and other villages where the organisation works is the mushrooming of self-help groups. These groups help inculcate the habit of saving money among village women by teaching them how to manage their finances. These groups are enabling them to take charge of their lives and become self employed.

Slowly and steadily, Dholpur became a ‘model village’ for the organisation. The 2011 Census revealed the sex ratio in the district had increased to 845 women per 1,000 men.

Now, Prayatn implements the same approach in other districts where it carries out interventions.

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Photo source: Picasa

Education is another area where Prayatn has managed to make huge strides. Again, Dholpur serves as the model village for Prayatn Sanstha’s educational interventions. It was common for children to skip school in the Dholpur area, as they used to work in the sandstone mines of the district.

“Our intervention here was on three levels. We made the community aware about the importance of education through continuous programmes. We strengthened the existing educational system and provided teacher training. We also started providing livelihood support to families so they weren’t dependent on the children’s income as well,” says Yogesh.

Bridge courses were set up to prepare the children for age-specific classes. In Bharatpur, over 43 ‘Shiksha Mitra’ schools were set up for the children of brick kiln workers. Prayatn Sanstha also set up alternative learning centres, where basic education and life skills training are given to girls who have never attended school.

One of the latest initiatives of the organisation is the establishment of a transit home for girls in Uttar Pradesh. The Mughalsarai Junction Railway Station is infamous for being a transit point for trafficked girls arriving from different parts of the country. With the help of the authorities, Prayatn Sanstha rescues such girls and provides institutional care to them until their families are found.

Prayatn Sanstha is funded by various organisations and grants. The organisation applied for the HCL Grant to help the implementation of a quality education and employment-linked skill development project in 60 villages of Dholpur and positively impact the lives of 18,400+ beneficiaries.

About HCL Grant

There are about 3.3 million NGOs in India doing commendable work in various areas aimed at inclusion and development. The HCL Grant has been launched to support the institutionalization of the Fifth Estate comprising individuals and institutions formed and led by the citizens of the country through the creation of strong governance frameworks and management capabilities. An endeavour of the HCL Foundation, HCL Grant envisions to build sustainable communities by supporting NGOs and individuals who are doing path-breaking work towards high impact transformation in rural India. In the first year, HCL Grant has identified the best NGOs in the area of rural education. To know more about the HCL Grant: http://www.hcl.com/hcl-grant

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