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Friends of Himalaya: An Organization Is Empowering Marginalized Women in Uttarakhand in Amazing Ways

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From providing life skills training to women to sponsoring education of their children, this NGO is extending much needed support to women in need. Here’s all you need to know about Friends of Himalaya and their amazing work.

Rekha is a young widow who lost her husband some time ago. Initially totally broke emotionally and financially, Rekha soon realized that it was no use sitting and weeping. She showed great courage in pulling her life back together and started supporting her family of two kids and in-laws.

She undertook training at one of the centres of Friends of Himalaya, an NGO that works for betterment of women and children. Rekha is the center in-charge. She gets a monthly salary and also stipend for her two children. Along with being the bread winner of the family, she also cleared her 12th exam this year.

This is just a small example of the impact Friends of Himalaya has created in the lives of needy women and children. Started with a mission for the development of Uttarakhand along with upliftment and empowerment of women and children in Delhi and Uttarakhand, this NGO is covering many grounds.

“The team initially started with development of Uttarakhand but then moved on to other issues. Today we organize various activities, vocational courses, education and much more in various areas,” says Upasana Joshi from FOH.

Through activities like spreading awareness on women rights and legal issues, counselling of widows, non formal teaching and much more, FOH has played a crucial role in the lives of these women.

Friends of Himalayas has helped many women earn a decent living.
Friends of Himalaya has helped many women earn a decent living.

Through their flagship program in Renewing Himalaya in Kedarnath, FOH has taken their initiative one step further by helping the flood affected women of Kedarnath floods which destroyed many families in 2013.

In partnership with a local NGO DHAD, the organization has started two training centres to empower women and teach them various lifeskill like knitting, art and craft, etc.

“These women have always been dependent upon male member of their family. After their death, they have no other source of income. As a result their kids drop out of the school and they have to live in very poor state. Our aim is to make these women self dependent by providing them with various skills and enabling them to do some part time work for income generation,” says Upasana.

FOH has reached out to around 100 women through their Kedarnath centre where these women are taught knitting and their products are further sold in the market at a reasonable price. Participants were trained on colour combinations, different knitting patterns and finishing of products.

“Women have shown great interest in attending the training and over 300 sweaters have been knitted by these women. Most of these sweaters have been sold in the local markets. 100 sweaters were distributed to the children currently under our scholarship scheme,” says FOH team.

FOH also supports 100 school children who to whom the team is sending a monthly stipend of Rs. 800 into their mothers account.

FOH also organize sessions and counselling sessions to help children in distress.
FOH also organize sessions and counselling sessions to help children in distress.

In addition to this a summer camp is also organized for the kids where they are given an opportunity to mingle with other kids and explore their creativity like dance, painting, etc.

Deepa Devi, 25, from Pathali Ukhimath is one such woman who has benefitted from the initiative. She lost her husband while he was working close to the temple. He was a porter and earned a basic living by carrying pilgrims, the floods killed the only earning member of the family.

“I have no source of income , after the death of my husband, and I am left alone with my two kids, but I want my children to get good education,” she says.

Through FOH, Deepa has got a new skill of knitting and she is able to support her family now.

The FOH team is now all set to organize a summer camp to boost the overall development of the children. They plan to have motivational sessions to help children cope with emotional trauma and distress.

Some of the sessions will serve low-performing students and provide remedial instruction, focusing on skills that these students require (specially maths and science).

Sessions on arts, crafts, dance, music, painting etc, will also be held, movies will be screened and a group of exercises will be organise to build leadership qualities and team spirit among kids.

Many handcrafted products by the local women are sold out in the market by FOH.
Many handcrafted products by the local women are sold out in the market by FOH.

“We observed that during the initial period of 4-5 months, children lost interest in studies, this was mainly due to the emotional stress they went through. Also as some school buildings were washed off, parents dint send there children to school because of fear. Some children couldn’t attend school because of financial constraints. We hope to solve all these issues with our activities and camps,” says Upasana.

In addition, FOH also works to spread awareness on issues related to water and sanitation. The FOH team conducted several drives to make people aware of the hygiene practices, poor sanitation, polluted water sources and diseases. Awareness sessions were organised twice a month on various aspects viz. hygiene and sanitation practices, personal and household hygiene, water handling, importance of hand wash etc.

“Along with awareness generation we also trained small groups (Health Champion Group) of community members to help us in imparting WASH awareness. Health Champion Group facilitated and disseminated good hygiene practices among the community members. A training session was organised every month for this group. So far four Health Champion Groups have been formed,” says the FOH team.

In future FOH want to reach out to more women and kids in different states of India.

“We are also in the process to expand our area of work and extend help to other villages. Along with livelihood development, we are seeking funds for ensuring women rights in the area through policy advocacy,” concludes the team.

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