Written by Atharva Mehendale, Community Project Manager, URI-North India & Afghanistan
Chahat, a member group of URI-North India & Afghanistan in Bhiwadi, Alwar in the state of Rajasthan has been striving to make education accessible to kids living in slums who do not have the means to attend schools. Chahat’s endeavors started with an education survey in a slum in Bhiwadi to gauge the number of such children who would be willing to attend such a school. After meticulous planning, coordination and bearing the brunt of opposition from parents, the school started with 8 students in 2016. Today, Chahat stands at 4 such centers with over 200 students learning under their guidance. Each center has a set-up where kids between the age group of 5-15 years study together. To make the sessions more interactive and interesting, games and fun activities are regularly incorporated as a part of session plans. Over the years, Chahat has been striving to be able to provide salaries to all teachers working in these centers. Through these efforts, it aims to raise the literacy level in the state.
In addition to the 'school for children' initiative, the organization has adult education centers in place for those women who are forced to marry young and cannot attend primary school. This initiative has been running over the past few years in Bhiwadi. Thanks to this initiative, the women can now use mobile phones, operate their own bank accounts and can even help their own children with homework. This center has helped them become self-confident and self-reliant. Chahat’s interventions have also expanded to a skill development center in the area. The center offers beautician and stitching courses. This has enabled women who’ve studied in the adult education center to progress towards financial independence.
Chahat’s association with URI has enabled the former to reach out to a wider audience. URI has been instrumental in creating a knowledge sharing platform at the local, regional, national & international levels. In the month of April 2020, URI collaborated with Chahat in facilitating relief work for the needy during the Covid-19 Pandemic. URI’s national assembly last year helped Chahat reach out to a wider audience. The women from Chahat’s skill development centers were able to use their skills in order to make products that were used as souvenirs for guests and stakeholders at the program. This is one of the ways in which URI – North India & Afghanistan has been able to uplift and brand the efforts of local grassroots communities in the country by giving them a platform to display their work and skills.
One of the major problems that Chahat as an organization has to face is the stigma associated with education amongst underprivileged communities. It has been trying to tackle this issue over the years through a number of its associations and collaborations. Small steps in the right direction has enabled Chahat to magnify its social impact and to reach out to a wider social base.