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Namaste to you all
Graeme and I have recently returned from 2 months in India during which we holidayed and then went to spend time with the project in Guraru Block, Bihar.

This is the first time we have seen the new program of Reproductive and Child Health and the new Literacy Centre, in action. Last year, staff were just completing the year long Base Line Survey.



Literacy Centre with teacher, Fulmanti, Wendy, students, and many onlookers 

It was heart warming to see the progress being made and to hear the enthsiasm of the staff for the work that they are doing. We stayed with the co-ordinator of the program, Sarika and her family for 2 nights and had 3 straight days in the field, being with the program and with me filming filming filming.


Sarika in front of her home

I drove a car with the female staff members. We visited the Adolescent Girls' Groups, the Pregnant Women's Groups and a Mother's Group, while Graeme visited the Adolescent Boys' Groups and a Fathers' Group and we both visited the Literacy Centre, and a Village Health, Sanitation and Nutrition session. Graeme travelled with the male staff members on the back of their motor bikes.

As an aside, everywhere I drove, people pointed, stared and called out "it's a woman driving!". This shows you the importance of the work we are doing in empowering women to take an equal place with men in this rural area.


The program is going fantastically. We are so happy to see the good work being done.  Staff are very committed and knowledgeable with great relationships with the villagers, due to working with them for many years in our Micro Finance, Self Help Group program.  

Adolescent Girls' Groups
The Adolescent Girls were a delight to be with and very determined to bring about change in their lives re child marriage. At the beginning of my visit to the group they sang a song in which a daughter laments her father going to her potential inlaws house. Because he hasn't got much money for her dowry, they treat him very poorly, not inviting him in and not giving him food or drink even though he has travelled a long way. At the end of the song they sang. "Dear Daddy, you talk to everyone else about my marriage. Please, please promise me that from now on you will talk to me". 

The girls are very informed now about health and hygiene especially regarding menstruation. They have a good understanding about what it means to be an adolescent and the mental, physical and emotional changes they are experiencing at this time in their lives.




Adolescent Girls' Group with staff member Lalmani 

Adolescent Boys' Group
Graeme accompanied staff members to attend an Adolescent Boys' Group meeting. The group had been formed recently. There were 15 boys present. Staff members facilitated a conversation around personal hygiene and general health matters, in which many of the boys readily participated.

Staff are working to sensitize the boys and their parents to men's and women's Reproductive Health issues. The aim is to foster generational change in attitudes so that newly married couples together can make responsible decisions regarding reproductive health and family planning. By starting with these youths we are hoping to increase their awareness of, and respect for, women's needs and the support that they can offer future wives.


These are early days as yet, however WEIV has begun the process and we are confident that significant cultural change can be made by raising awareness through group discussions. An important aspect of the work with these young men is also in encouraging them towards respect for themselves and helping them to make appropriate choices when confronted by the demands of becoming an adult.


Staff member Anil with Adolescent Boys' Group

Pregnant Women's Groups
Pregnant Women's Group members that I spent time with are very relaxed and happy to learn about good nutrition, the importance of breast feeding, what hospital births versus home births can offer and information re vaccinations. Staff also check whether they are taking the iron tablets handed out by the government.

Staff members very much encourage the women to try to stay calm and they visit the home a few times during the course of the pregnancy to ensure that the women have the support they need from their in laws and their husband, as well as their parents if they are nearby.



Staff member Premlata with her pregnant women's group


Soma, a pregnant woman in one of our groups with staff member, Renu.

Literacy Centre
The literacy centre was so exciting to see. Some girls are now reading fully, while others are slower to learn. All of them are so keen and obviously love coming to the centre. One girl told me "before I felt like an animal, now I feel like a person."


Literacy Centre building in Pathra village

Parents are happy that the centre only operates 4 hours a day so that the girls can contribute to the house work before classes and the field work afterwards. They are also grateful that it is in their village as the school is some distance away and they said that they would fear for their daughters' safety if they sent them to the school.

The girls are learning basic numeracy, Hindi reading and writing, and handwriting in English as well as some vocabulary. Fulmanti, the teacher, explained how she had to actually hold the girls' hands to guide them at first when they tried to write the letters. There are 20 girls between 13  and 17 enrolled in the centre, though not all come on any given day. They are very proud to be able to read and assured me that they knew "nothing, Madam" before they came to the centre.



A village home

Village Health Sanitation and Nutrition Day

These fortnightly village visits by a registered Antenatal midwife (ANM), ensure innoculations of pregnant women, mothers and babies are carried out. Any other health issues are also dealt with and pregnant women receive their iron supplement handouts. Our staff encourage women to attend at the appropriate time and assist the ANM in her role.


Sarika, (who has the appropriate certificate) injects a baby, thus assisting the ANM.

And now to Australia.....

Our big fundraiser coming up on May 28th 


Sutra: Secrets of Classical Indian Dance 

After a sell-out season in New Zealand and Melbourne, Karma Dance will explain the real meaning of sutra to a Byron Bay audience in its highly acclaimed production Sutra: secrets of classical Indian dance.

Live dance, music and film will combine to present a rare & intimate stage production on Classical Indian Dance: an exquisite art form based on the ancient dance sutras of India. Watch this 3000-year-old dance form come to life on stage through 8 routines and 2 hours of gorgeous costumes, intricate hand gestures, athletic footwork and captivating poses.



 


“Our dance practice is best described as a tree with ancient roots and fresh new leaves. Our roots are deeply planted in a rich classical Indian dance tradition the learnings from thousands of years of dance wisdom planted by our cultural ancestors. We love standing here, in that soil, it’s where we belong. From here – we sprout new leaves as we experiment with learnings from other cultures, modern times and our own life stories.”
 

Details of the performance time, date and how to book are on the poster above or to book online click here: http://www.byroncentre.com.au/event/sutra-secrets-of-classical-indian-dance-presented-by-ard-aust-inc-karma-dance-inc/?instance_id=22650

There will also be an Indian Dance and Yoga Workshop on the day after the dance performance, Sunday May 29th, from 10 am until 12 noon, at Brunswick Heads Memorial Hall. See details below ---> 


Please come to these events and tell your family and friends about them. A big infusion of funds would be really timely now as we hope to increase our activities- especially to establish more Literacy Centres. Only $60 per month is enough to pay the wages of a teacher to give 20 girls the chance to change their lives!

Love and namaste to you all
Wendy and Graeme


And .... Love from the women of Bihar.


Ps If you are inspired by all the work described above and would like to donate a one off or make a monthly contribution please go to the following link. www.ard-india.org




 
Become a supporter of ARD by donating monthly or as a one off. Please visit our website www.ard-india.org
Volunteer your time, offer your skills, set up an ARD support group, hold a presentation in your home. Please contact us. We'd love your support!
In the Norther Rivers? Check out our stall at the Car Boot Market in Lismore 3rd Sunday of the month. Goods to donate? Ring Bruce on 66220485.