Pune: NGO Niramay, under its programme ‘Kishori Shakti Project,’ has been helping adolescent girls in 16 slums across the city for the past 10 years by bringing about a difference in their lives.
The NGO not only conducts classes for the girls but also provides a safe environment to study and play. They organise various activities and skill development sessions, which has inculcated confidence and self-esteem among these girls.
For the past 8 years, the girls in the slums of Kelewadi have been performing the traditional games of ‘Mangalagauri’ to earn through the art form, which is used as their educational aid.
“Coming from the slum-dwelling lower middle-class families, these girls do not always get proper attention from their family members. During childhood, many children especially girls are not given proper attention nor their talents are nurtured as more attention is given to male children. So the classes conducted by us give these girls an opportunity to find themselves and nurture their talents,” said Kshitija Agashe of NGO Niramay.
She said the girls have been trained to perform the traditional games performed during the festival of ‘Mangalagauri’ in Maharashtrian households. “We take contracts for the girls to perform at various events, at individual functions organised by people, etc and charge around Rs 7,000 per event and the money is used for educational purpose. Instead of giving it directly to the girls, we distribute it equally among the girls, keep records and use it to pay their fees and buy educational material for them,” she explained.
Along with performing these dance forms to the traditional songs, the girls have tweaked them according to the current subjects and spread social messages like ‘save girl child’, ‘plant more trees’ and ‘save water’ through the songs.
Agashe added, “Every day, in all slums, we conduct classes from 3 pm to 6 pm. Here, the girls are made to exercise, then complete their homework and read, after which in the last hour of the class, we let them play freely.
Apart from this, we have been organising sports events for them to boost their interest and talent in sports and also conduct summer camps for them, where they participate in various skill development activities.”
Archana Sahani, a part of the performing group who is presently studying at Abasaheb Garware College said, “I have been attending the classes here since 2015 and here, I have learnt so much from dance to swimming.
Along with these, they have also helped me to build confidence and be independent.”
Harshada Hanamghar, another participant said, “The classes conducted by Niramay have helped me utilise the free afternoon time in the most productive manner and the NGO is also assisting me in building a career by taking up beauty parlour courses with international certification.”
Rani Thopate, the class supervisor who is in charge of the classes at five slums said, “The initiative has not just helped the girls academically, but it has also helped them develop a sense of social responsibility. Recently, we took them to visit an orphanage once, where they had requested us to perform the traditional games of ‘Mangalagauri.’ After meeting the children there, the girls asked us not to take any money from them as remuneration.”