ADVOCACY EFFORTS NEVER END...
“Anna ki attu, naaku thittu…” is a line from a Telugu folk song. The song is sung by a girl who speaks about going hungry while the boy gets the best of the food. Discrimination is a way of life - in thoughts, actions and most importantly emotions.
Cultural conditioning has resulted in women devaluing themselves and this is passed on from generation to generation. Ending this discrimination against girls and women is a difficult task because the society and even the women themselves continue to accept the current situation as normal. With immense efforts for over 30 years, we made it possible…
Village meetings conducted
Girls joined in school
918 → 936 :
Girl child ratio improved
Awareness - Knowing what's possible
Ignorance is NOT bliss. Many folks in and around Kadapa don’t know what’s possible. They have only seen daughters being a burden and families left in poverty and debt after paying dowries. They have seen their daughters being humiliated and beaten after marriage. They are unaware of the laws protecting women and don't know how to access them. As we move into the fourth decade of our work, we see awareness as the key driver of change. If we can positively impact the way men think about women and women think about themselves, we can bring about a lasting change. Information is power and lack of information creates extreme hardship for all concerned, especially women. The lack of information about their rights, facilities and health services available to them makes them helpless and dependent. Keeping this in mind we have been concentrating on outreach programmes in an effort to educate the community.
Our counsellors visit villages and speak about health and legal rights, and campaign against eve-teasing, child marriages, domestic violence, dowry and female foeticide. They provide counselling to the families and enable them to fight against these issues. We believe that the future lies in the value system of the next generation and hence conduct numerous programs in schools and colleges to educate them regarding gender discrimination issues.
Most of our counsellors are girls and women who have successfully changed the narratives of their lives and are role models who exemplify what is possible.
Story of Revati
Revati came to Aarti Home in 2002 as a trainee for a tailoring program. She is now a counsellor and a change-maker in Bayanapalli, a small village in Kadapa district. She leads conversations on women working, girls being educated and campaigns against dowry - a personal crusade for her.
Our advocacy starts with our founder and you can see some of her work...
BBC documentary India’s Missing Girls shows the social problem of Indian families’ mindsets towards girl children
Neelakanta is an Indian (Telugu) film director who won two National Film Awards & three prestigious Nandi Awards
As a teenager, Tanya Sharma conducted dance as therapy an intern at Aarti Home to benefit the children
Action - Enabling the possible
Any awareness program is ineffective if we do not enable the women to change their circumstances. Our programs involve training women in livelihood skills and self reliance, along with continued support from our counsellors.
Open Resource Centres
We have created 7 open resource centres and are in the process of building a large centre in Kadapa - a place where women can come for social, legal and emotional help irrespective of caste, creed, age and social status. Click here to learn more about ORCs.
Women visited the 7 ORCs created
Women attended leadership training
Women counselled in the ORCS during the period of the project
Women attended livelihood training
One safe house was created and 403 people were sheltered
We have provided Leadership Training (including Legal, Social and Emotional Awareness) to 3266 women in an effort to enable them to become leaders with a purpose. These women have gone on to lead small groups and become change agents in their villages.
Jyothsna participated in the leadership training. Post training, she, along with the counsellors, went on to build an organic manure business. She was able to break the shackles, became a village elder and is now an advocate for child education.
Story of Jyothsna
Role reversal programs conducted in schools have enabled the boys to become aware of the difficulties their mothers and sisters face. This has brought about an attitudinal change amongst the boys as well as the men in the family. We have conducted these sessions in 119 schools, impacting 22500 children.
For many years, I felt stifled inside the house as I was not even allowed to talk to the neighbours. I had to fight with my mother-in-law in order to attend this training. This six day experience has changed my outlook on life, and I have realised that only I can bring about change in my life.
Story of Leelavathi, Duvvur
Livelihood skills training
Just about 21% of women in India work. Our programs aim to change attitudes, build basic skills that enable women to come out of their shells, while encouraging them to work.
All these years I was not even able to crawl, but now I know I can fly…
The main focus in these training programs is on facing interviews, body language, workplace ethics, resume writing, current affairs and finding job opportunities matching their skills, thus making them more employable.
I never imagined that I could speak in front of so many people on a stage, I always felt my legs tremble. But after attending employability skills training, I am able to speak here confidently in front of all of you...
Advocate - Celebrate the impossible
Our programs will not be considered mainstream unless we build on the success of our women and get support from partners. We work with government officials, village leaders, police, religious leaders, volunteers and male feminists to make them a part of the solution.
Bringing religious leaders together: We have brought together progressive Hindu, Muslim and Christian leaders on the same platform to speak about the role of women in society. In a program with over 300 attendees, the three religious leaders on the stage impacted the audience and also enabled conversations among those present.
Subbarayudu is a leader in a village in Galiveedu mandal. After attending our program in the village, he came forward to be the change agent with his family and village, and has been an ardent supporter of the cause.
The 2011 census showed the child sex ratio as 918 girls to 1000 boys, Kadapa district not being an exception. The child sex ratio of Kadapa was 958 girls to 1000 boys in the previous census, and plummeted to 918 in 2011. This sudden drop was the reason that Kadapa was chosen as one of the 100 districts for Beti Bachao Beti Padhao program on 26th January, 2015. The EU funded project against female foeticide and infanticide - ‘Save the Girl Child’, was started by Aarti on 24th January 2015.
When Nilofer walks in her street holding her head high, she sends a signal against domestic violence and stands for the protection of women in her community
The effort to reach out to one woman at a time became a big program, funded by the EU from 2015 to 2020. During these years, we have worked extensively in 117 mandals across Kadapa and Chittoor districts to eliminate discrimination against the girl child, prevent foeticide and protect women Human Rights Defenders (wHRDs).
Our first EU funded project was named Mana Bidda (మన బిడ్డే మన సర్వస్వం), meaning “OUR CHILD IS OUR LIFE”, and the lessons learnt during this project became the basis of our second EU funded project, ABHAYA (FEARLESS), protection of women Human Rights Defenders.
Aarti’s core belief is that every girl and woman should be an Abhaya, one who lives fearlessly, and whose spirit can thrive in the absence of fear; a belief that has been constantly reinforced during our 30 + year journey, when we found and housed one abandoned girl child. As we went on to care for many others like her, our learnings have been the basis of all our projects and efforts. A radical transformation in people’s thoughts and attitudes is required for the permanent eradication of gender discrimination. Community based projects at grass root levels, like Mana Bidda and Abhaya have gone a long way towards addressing this, along with the power of both traditional and online media to generate greater discussion about the issue of freedom and support of Human rights defenders. The efforts of women attempting to challenge the existing norms upsets the male dominated social order and are met with ridicule, resistance and violence. Every girl and woman should be an “Abhaya”, she who can live fearlessly, for it is only in the absence of fear that the human spirit can thrive. It is essential that women are empowered with powerful tools like awareness, education and skills training in order to free themselves from the shackles of financial dependence. Their emancipation and the permanent eradication of gender discrimination can only come about by a radical change in the male dominated social order.
Every girl and woman should be an “Abhaya”, she who can live fearlessly, for it is only in the absence of fear that the human spirit can thrive.
- A Message from Aarti founder, Sandhya