Balwadis are pre-schools for children between two and a half years and six years of age. Besides providing child-care support for working mothers, Balwadis were platforms to motivate the girl-child into continuing her schooling; and were crucial for disseminating information and raising awareness regarding nutrition, food and health amongst mothers and children.
These were primary schools run by SIDH and supported by the entire village community located in the Aglaar River Valley. When SIDH began its first school in Bhediyan in 1989, less than one in ten children went to school as there were hardly any government schools in these small, far flung villages. Today families consider schooling an integral part of growing up and enrolment figures, including that of the girl-child, are on the rise in most villages. These schools are spaces for experiments and dialogue where children learn by understanding about their community and natural environment.
Bodhshala was our model secondary school that facilitated the teaching of subjects/ disciplines through place-based learning and hand-based production activities. Further, by emphasizing the linkages between farming, food and health, Bodhshala enabled a contextual understanding of the village within the larger economic order. (See “Bodhshala : Learning from the Community” by Rajan Venkatesh” a joint publication of SIDH and Other India Press)
Sanjeevani was an intensive, 10-month long, residential, gap-year program geared towards providing a balanced exposure of prospective educational and livelihood opportunities for rural youth (above the age of 17). In the process, Sanjeevani was instrumental in initiating a process of self-inquiry that challenged fundamental mindsets regarding prosperity, progress and development.
The ideas that formed the impetus for the Sanjeevani program were a learning outcome of several research studies conducted and published by SIDH, like “A Matter of Quality”, “The Child and Family” and “Text and Context”, which prompted SIDH to critically examine the impact of modern education on rural communities. To date Sanjeevani has been one of SIDH’s most successful programs because of its lasting impact on village communities.
Samvaad was our outreach initiative to interface with other citizens, academicians, social activists, policy and opinion makers regarding the learnings and outcomes of SIDH’s programs. To this end, SIDH organized multiple workshops/seminars and the ensuing dialogues were mutually enriching and also helped us improve our existing programs.
Women’s Programs was SIDH’s first community initiative. It began by organizing 10 ‘Mahila Dals’ in 1989 and soon grew to accommodate 40 womens’ groups within its mandate. These self-help groups were community-funded and were supporting training classes for adult literacy as well as for the development of craft-skills such as sewing and tailoring.
Over time, the ‘Mahila Mela’, organized annually on the 8th of March became emblematic of the increased agency and status of women within the household and the village community. The Mela was entirely organized and managed by the women. The Kempty Panchayat supported the womens’ group and women participants from far flung villages came to attend the Mela. SIDH is proud that what began as an event has taken a life of its own and is now a tradition, owned by the community