Friday, 4 January 2013

Keeping "Nirbahaya" Alive...

It's been exactly a week since "Nirbhaya" passed away...

The crowds around Jantar Mantar have dissipated...Happy New Year messages are flying about as usual...the TV channels are busy dissecting India's defeat to Pakistan at the Eden Gardens yesterday...the FB regulars are back to posting pretty pictures and rants about the freezing weather....we're back on our workstations, making plans for the weekend...

Life goes on as usual..."It has to! What else can we do?" we ask!

We the concerned, whose marrow stirred on hearing Nirbhaya's story. We the cocooned, who quickly go back to our little zones of comfort.

But, there are things we can do to bring about the Change we wish to see. Central to the ideas that follow is that we all wish to see a more equitable society; that we do not want any more Nirbhayas; that we do not want any child freezing to death on the pavement for want of clothes or shelter.

We could organize ourselves into small groups (4-5 like minded friends would be perfect) and visit a slum near us. To begin with, just go and see for ourselves what it is really like to be them. Go with an open mind, and with the knowledge that we will not necessarily be welcomed. Take a walk through the slum a few times. Then, start talking to a few people to find out what bothers them most. And then, go ahead and find ways for them to deal with it.
Meeting with the slum dwellers of Lucknow
I remember being in a Lucknow slum where their biggest problem was that the nearest source of drinking water - a public tap - was across the main road, and hence very difficult to reach. No one in the slum knew what to do about it. Finally, an NGO worker was able to take this matter to the concerned civic authority, who agreed to extend a pipeline and install a tap within the slum.

Why can we not do what this NGO worker did?

We could find out which is the nearest government school to where we stay (there is bound to be one within a 2-km radius), meet with the HM (or principal), and request him/her to let us read out to children of Classes 2 or 3 once a week. Take along with us a few nice books (which would in any case be lying around somewhere in the house), sit on the mat along with the children, let them look at the books, and read out to those who are interested in listening to us. Let them listen to stories we tell; in return, they will have a thousand of their little stories to tell us!

Back in 2003-04, while at Pratham, we piloted our Library program very much like this. This program led to the starting of Pratham libraries in hundreds of government schools, and eventually, to the starting of Pratham Books.

Construction site workers are among the most
vulnerable sections in a city who we could reach out to
We could go to a construction site near where we stay (even a small one), and request the contractor to let us interact with some of the construction workers. Usually, these workers stay at or near the site itself. Tell the workers that we would like to organize a small meeting with them on their day off or after work hours. Have this meeting, just to find out more about them. Which village are they originally from? Why have they migrated? Are their children getting an education? Can we be of help to them?

An NGO I visited in Mumbai regularly does this, even organizing film shows for the construction workers at night. (Last time I was there, they had recently screened "Well Done Abba!"). Even the contractors / employers were happy with this intervention, as they reported that worker morale had improved with this.

We could volunteer to work with an NGO on weekends. NGOs are usually strapped for resources, and always need help with writing reports, proposals and other documents. Especially the smaller ones can make good use of technical skills such as database management and website design.

Around five years back, I had done a small bit with a Delhi based NGO called Adi Gram Samiti that works for the education of girl children in Mewat, around two hours drive from Gurgaon. The organization is now well on its feet, implementing several projects supported by international agencies.

These are just a few ideas that we can look at to do our bit for bridging the vast social and economic gap that's taking a toll on our society, and at least for some of us, on our conscience. There can be many more such ideas. Let us no more be content with protesting on social media or on streets. Let us be the change.

Let us do our bit to keep Nirbhaya alive...

04 Jan '13     

1 comment:

  1. Yes, let us keep Nirbhaya alive in our actions. Protests die out as does any outburst of emotion. Only a way of life sustains. Keep up the good effort, Chetan.