Mana Bidda Project (2015-2017)
Although (in theory) gender discrimination is illegal and condemned, many practices, such as female feticide, child marriages, sexual and physical abuse of women, and the general devaluation of girls are commonplace in parts of India. Mana Bidda, a three-year E.U. funded project, aimed to eliminate these practices in Kadapa through grassroots education.
Average increase in gender ratio of Kadapa: 918 (2011) → 935 girls (2017) for every 1000 boys
1215 village meetings reaching 81,000 participants
119 abortions stopped
51 counselors trained to provide psychological services to those facing issues of gender discrimination after Mana Bidda's completion
Proudly sponsored by the European Commission
The Mana Bidda project has 7 pillars of action– baseline assessment, village meetings, sensitization projects, leadership training, volunteer recruitment, advocacy efforts, and psychosocial support.
What makes Mana Bidda successful in Kadapa is its grassroots level approach to change. The end goal of Mana Bidda is to create a district that self-polices instances of gender discrimination. To accomplish this task, Mana Bidda divided up Kadapa into smaller sections, called mandals. While Mana Bidda works to deal with immediate cases of gender discrimination, the main focus is to educate and change the mindsets local leaders so that the fight for girls rights continues long after Mana Bidda ends.
The program employs ten Project Officers who each have a team of counselors from each Mandal who work on the ground to propogate the project's missions. Much of the program's succes is due to the tireless efforts of the Project Officers and local counselors.
In addition to offering trainings, the Project Officers and their teams conduct a variety of events in their mandals to engage the communities and provide more avenues to change community mindsets.
20 of the Mana Bidda employees are former Aarti Home girls.
At the start of the project, the Mana Bidda staff went into all of the villages to conduct interviews with locals about their mindsets around women and girl children. At the end of the project, they wil return to these villages to conduct a second round of interviews in order to gage whether or not the Mana Bidda program was effective in helping the villagers dismantle their disciminatory views about women.
Project Officers talk at village meetings about villager's rights and laws, since many are uneducated and unaware. One of their main goals is to help end feticide and infanticide of girl children, so they spend much of their time discussing the value of girl children and the laws protecting unborn female babies and girls. Additionally, they try to inform the people about the resources and goverment support systems in place to help them and their children.
In order to attract the villagers to the meetings, project officers host fun events at their meetings. One event they plan regularly is Seemanthan (or baby shower) for pregnant women. During these celebrations, they give pregnant women kits containting flowers, fruits, bangles, and bowls. They also participate in auspicious rituals such as pushupakan. This strengthens the women’s emotional bonds with their unborn babies and also allows the officers to keep track of the pregnant women in the villages. In addition to this celebration, they host games for the village children and birthday celebrations for the girls of lactating mothers.
The sensitization workshops occur in collaboration with the health workers, police, government officals religous leaders and village leaders. During these workshops, trainers work to educate officials on the laws protecting girl children and women and their role in ending gender discrimination and infanticide. The goal is to create sustainable change by empowering local leaders to take the initiative to change comunity mindsets. Since they began Mana Bidda a year and a half ago, they have already seen great improvements in village officials: these officials are stopping child marriages, gender based abortions, and are providing support for abandoned and neglected children.
Psychosocial Support (Case Work)
Project Officers also go home to home to work with pregnant mothers and girl children who are at risk in their communities. They work over weeks or months to change the mindsets of parents in order to save unborn baby girls from gender based abandonment and get girls into schools. The Project Officers are effective in their work because many of them have come from poor or uneducated backgrounds and can connect with the villagers. They have created trusting relationships that have made real impact.
SIAPP runs four day long workshops to give women the skills sets and confidence needed to succeed in the workplace so eventually they can become more confident and self reliant.
In addition to village meetings, the counselors and officers pass out fliers and hang posters condemning feticide and infanticide of girl children and alerting villagers about Kadapa's low sex ratio. They also work todvertise their women's counseling helpline. Additionally, Mana Bidda sponsered a series of television advertisements in Kadapa to increase awareness about gender based feticide and infanticide.
Lastly, Mana Bidda works to recruit local volunteers to aid in their efforts. Mana Bidda has been blessed with a variety of volunteers from other organizations and at a local level within the villages.