Empowering deprived children to become leaders who bring | Milaap

Empowering deprived children to become leaders who bring lasting change

"Strengthening India - one step at a time" . This phrase felt absolutely true when I visited the social activity center of Prayas in Bhabra, Gujarat.

Prayas is a micro-finance and social development NGO established in 1997. It's vision is to have a more sustainable and equal society through social activities in villages and providing funds to women in rural Gujarat to start their businesses. They established centers in different towns of Gujarat starting from Bhabra - a small village located in east Gujarat. This is where they also started local projects to increase awareness on social issues like - importance of education, marriages, maternal healthcare, etc. They collaborated with the Indian government to work on healthcare projects to spread awareness on AIDS, that lead to reduction in AIDS cases over a 5-year period.

Orientation session on marriages and sexual health

As part of such social projects, Prayas collaborated with an organization named Child Fund 12 years ago. ChildFund strives to ensure that deprived, excluded, and vulnerable children have the capacity to improve their lives and become young adults, parents, and leaders who inspire lasting and positive change in their communities. They work in collaboration with 50 NGO's across India to deliver on this dream. Prayas is one of them and has social programs at 8 villages of Gujarat.

As I met the organizers of the various social programs (we will talk about them below), I was most surprised with this - "There has been no media coverage of our activities or any support in past 4 years. All the work we do is in the dark".

They have been conducting 2 major programs -

1. Educating children of ages 8 - 15 years :
As most of the government school teaching is not personalized and often incompetent, Prayas has been giving classes to children apart from school. The students are either part of a school or those who have left already. They are chosen after a detailed survey in the villages based on family income and oppurtunities after education.
They are taught in schools, or at Prayas offices or even under a tree - as per children's convineance as most of them can't travel far to learn. Adapting to their needs has made this program a huge success with 640 students enrolling this year. Out of these 235 are able to clear the exams with 75% or higher.

Children talking to teachers under tree shade and at Prayas office

2. Youth Orientation on Early Marriages :
With the youth getting aware of the right age to marry and the potential problems associated with early marriages, Prayas tries to more formally help them understand all the issues in detail. They bring together men and women of ages 16 - 20 years. They talk to them about sexual health problems in women giving birth to children at early age. They talk about the responsibilities men should be aware of before deciding to get married.
This has helped the young people in villages to take a stand against early marriages, and has reduced the number of marriages below the legal age by almost 60% over last 5 years.

Youth from Bhabra village presenting their ideas after the orientation session

Apart from above, they use the remaining funds (if any) by providing children with sports kits, girls with sanitary pads and families with warm clothes for winter.

Young men with cricket bats                                   Girls being distributed sanitary pads 

This team of 7 people at Prayas have done amazing work to reach more than 5000 children. With the work gaining pace and more organizations joining hands, they believe that if only more people are aware of this work it will help create a real, lasting impact. As I bid farewell to the team, I was confident that covering such meaningful causes will motivate people across the nation to lend a hand and strengthen India one step a time.