Real Impact is improving prospects for young girls in rural communities
In India, where men dominate, the promised land of gender equality is hard enough in cities, let alone rural areas. In recent years, girls of the Neemka village have been given vital help and support by the Chiraiya Project. This initiative has already improved the educational, economic and life prospects for hundreds of villagers but, above all, it has engendered hope.
In 2015, BIMTECH carried out an assessment of the rural village, Neemka, following a request from a local member of parliament. It came under the ‘Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojna’ banner, which aims to trigger the development of Indian villages. The following year, the newly formed Chiraiya Project and its ambitious team, under the mentorship of Ranganathan Society for Social Welfare and Library Development (RSSWLD), proceeded with the aim of achieving long-term impact.
During the fieldwork, it was established that adolescent girls in the village needed help in narrowing the significant gap between girls in rural regions and their counterparts in urban areas. India is a male dominated society and conditions in villages are extremely harsh. Neemka was no different and the girls were living in a very poor state; they were introverted and lacked empowerment.
Their participation in the project’s programme of educational courses, however, has changed their outlook and the collective mind-set of the entire community, leading to far greater gender equality. Parents are now motivating their daughters to continue with education, while many girls have resumed schooling having previously dropped out. Some of the girls have even started working in government or the private sector, and others have become self-employed by incorporating skills they picked up on the programme, like stitching, creating soft toys, beauty parlour treatment and flower making.
This engendering of possibilities has resulted in, not only social empowerment, but economic independence. In addition, the girls have caught up with the fast-moving digital world, affording them further opportunities to integrate with mainstream society.
The project has also resonated with other facets of life throughout the village. It is now cleaner; every house has its own toilet and all medical facilities are readily available. Above all, the village is free from the social ills which blighted it before the programme’s launch, enabling it to modernise and become truly inclusive.
Over the years, the team have witnessed confidence grow in the eyes of the girls, thereby crystallising what it means to make a difference. Many of the girls are settling into new existences, but also influencing the lives of other girls they speak to. Indeed, the enduring legacy of the Chiraiya Project is vital and each generation must be a foundation for the next. This organic blossoming is already in evidence, as the project template has been adopted for the empowerment and rehabilitation of women inmates at the central jail in Gwalior.
Ultimately, for the girls that have emerged from this unique mission, their success and ability to shift deeply entrenched traditions, shows the potential that knowledge and self-confidence can bring. In many ways, they have become torchbearers for the wider development of Indian society.