Udaan- Giving wings to the rural girls of Harda district of Madhya Pradesh

BHOPAL: Funded by Azeem Premji Philanthropic Initiative, Bangalore, programme 'Udaan- Strengthening roots, Spreading wings' has brought about changes in the lives of hundreds of girls in the Harda district of the state. The program, which is a unique initiative enabling rural girls to dream and lead, is being run by Synergy Sansthan, a 14-year-old NGO since 2016.

The organisation works directly with 20 girls and young women every year and they further on ground engage with adolescent (10-19 year) girls during their one-year fellowship. The program has touched the lives of over 800 girls.

The idea, says Vimal Jat, director of Synergy Sansthan is that the adolescent girls and young women take charge of their lives, develop aspirations and dreams and become role models for other adolescents and young people.

Free Press spoke to three of the fellowship awardees who could spread their wings and soar into the skies with the help of the Udaan.

"When I was in class 10, my father suffered a paralytic stroke and became bed-ridden. The financial condition of the family deteriorated and my education became the first casualty. I was withdrawn from the school and family members began talking about my marriage. I was not allowed to venture out of my home. Then came the Udaan fellowship and it transformed my life. I resumed her studies and I have now completed my bachelor’s in social work. As part of the fellowship, I launched a project called Disha under which I helped 8 school dropout tribal girls, resume their studies. We are Brahmins and earlier no one from other castes or religions was allowed to enter our home. But now my friends of all religions and castes can come to even our kitchen. Now, I can travel anywhere alone. I don’t even seek permission from my family members. I just inform them and go. I have also learned how to ride a bike."- Radhika Shrivastava, 24

"Periods not only meant physical discomfort for me but also virtual ostracization. I was not allowed to enter the kitchen or touch anything. I kept on crying, sitting in a corner. Of course, there was no question of leaving the house without being escorted by a male member of the family. The Udaan fellowship filled me with such confidence as I had never experienced earlier. I realised that menstruation is just a biological process. I formed a Pad Group to make both men and women aware of the facts about menstruation. I told them it is nothing to be ashamed of. Today, I can ask my brother to bring sanitary pads for me. I am preparing for the MP PSC exam and have completed graduation in social work. My mother was also not allowed to leave home as she was the ‘bahu’ of the village. I motivated her to break the shackles. She was very good at stitching and weaving. She has trained other women and also runs her own shop."- Varsha Soni, 21

"I am a postgraduate in sociology and psychology. I teach sociology in a nearby college. I am a single mother. My daughter is nine years of age. My father was in a government job. But despite that, all sorts of superstitions about menstruation were prevalent in my family. During those days, I had to eat and sleep alone. Post-fellowship, I first recruited my younger sister as my supporter. And then we both waged a joint battle and ensured that all taboos and superstitions were given a burial. I am running a small group called Darpan, which helps adolescent girls cope with the mental and physical changes that come with puberty. About 20 girls are associated with the group."- Kanchana Chouhan, 32

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