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Projects of Guild of Service

Aamar Bari

Since the past three decades the Guild of Service has been trying to reach out to the marginalized section of women, the widows, women in prostitution, women in slums, women in agricultural sector, women in Panchayati Raj. Efforts have been made by us to open up new avenues for integrating widows into the mainstream. Since the present condition of these women is a result of social injustices it is imperative that a preferential policy should be implemented for the upliftment of this dispriveleged group.

We expect the basic standards of human rights from the Government, from the society to give dignity to the women. The strength of human rights is not mandatory. However, the strength of what is just and what is right is important. The Guild of Service worked with this context in view and worked with women who through bad luck find themselves.

  • Discriminated socially this discrimination is given the approval of traditions and religious sanctions.
  • Deprived economically the traditional breadwinner is either no longer alive or has abandoned her, and she herself is not equipped to earn.
  • Legally marginalized
  • Unaware of her rights and incapable of asserting herself she has no judicial recourse.
  • Lack of support very few governments and NGOs view marginalized women including widows as a special category with individual problems and a specialized status.

The Guild of Service found that it was vital to raise the issue of discriminated women as a cause for social concern and use the facilities existing in the system to build capacities of this section of society. If need be new and more dynamic programmes may be instituted to rid society of this phenomenon.

With this in mind the Guild of Service launched its comprehensive program at Vrindavan, Aamar Bari in ameliorating the sufferings of these women. Our actions have been based on the needs of these women, which emerged during our various studies through the length, and breadth of the country. Our objective in having a home for widows was to find basic solutions to the problems that they faced.

Aamar Bari (Widows home) is a very small effort towards capacity building. The home is a delight. To see the mothers (widows) between the ages 40 to 105 living in harmony, full of warmth and affection content and protected in the environment. Most mothers feel that they are living in their own homes. The older ones feel that they are matriarchs who are engaged in taking care of the younger ones. The Guild provides all requirements of washing, clothing, boarding and lodging. The Guild gratefully acknowledges the financial support by Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment for the project and the Bhagchandka Charitable Trust for the home premises.

Health: Most mothers suffer from old age problems including poor vision, nutritional deficiencies, and respiratory and orthopedic problems. While lack of mobility prevents the older ones from going to hospital all of them have financial constraints in meeting medical treatment. The Guild of Service has twice-weekly check up by responsible allopathic and homeopathic doctors and screening for eyesight, and tuberculosis is done regularly. 30 mothers were operated and 97 examined and some were prescribed glasses. Good nursing ensured that they were no infections in the home as we have two regular nurses on the role. Two women have been diagnosed with Cancer. One of them expired after a long period of constant care, treatment and support. The other is still under treatment. Regular counseling is being given to each mother to change their attitude towards living. So far we have had six deaths in the Ashram due to old age.

Economic Empowerment: Economic empowerment of a widow or single women is perhaps the essential support that can be extended. It not only helps in providing regular sustenance but also gives her esteem in the eyes of society. Keeping this in mind a group of such women are being trained to become Nursing aids. Special classes are being held for them at Ma Saraswati Hospital, Mathura where trained and experienced Nurses are coming in to give lectures. The candidates have very little education so the training has been designed keeping this handicap in mind. In addition to Nursing instructions they are spending some time in upgrading their education also. Sixty such women have undergone two batches of training, one from March 2001 to July 2001 and the other from October 2001 to January 2002. Each candidate has been employed with a good remuneration. The women at Aamar Bari made bags, wicks and Kanthi mala for the International Conference on Capacity Building Of Marginalized Women - Widows held from 1st to 3rd of February 2002 and they were remunerated for it.

Festivals: Festivals are celebrated with great enthusiasm. During Janmashtami the mothers kept a fast and went to the temple. They decorated Aamar Bari to welcome the birth of Shri Krishna at 12:00 in the night. They sang bhajans and then had prashad in the night.

They have been told the significance of independence Day and Republic Day. So now they have a regular flag-hoisting ceremony and singing of the National Anthem.

On the occasion of peace day they made a peace chain and kept a peace vigil with great enthusiasm. On 2nd October 2001 the mothers carried a candle around Aamar Bari to pay their homage to Gandhi ji.

On the occasion of Durga Puja from 10th October to 18th October, the mothers kept a fast for ashtami and navami. They gave pushpanjali and celebrated Vijay Dashami by distributing sweets, singing bhajans, dancing and having good food. Diwali is celebrated as Kali Puja by the mothers of Aamar Bari. They lighted diyas and crackers. They had sweets and good food.

All mothers sing Bhajans (Hymns) every evening. The mothers have been provided with a cable television network and enjoy even the news in the evenings. They are knowledgeable about international affairs and national affairs. Morning yoga is conducted for them and regular exercise is a must for their aging. A few women take interest in knitting, clay modeling, jute weaving.

Nurses Aid Training Program, Mathura

Economic empowerment is the only long term solution to providing a secure and financially stable future to young widows. Families, cannot and sometimes do not wish to incur additional expenses in paying for any kind of training or education which will make the young widow independent. It is then left to organisations working for the upliftment of the underpriviliged to take up this challenge. Young widows in Mathura and Vrindavan have been left to the mercy of the public to eke out some sort of existence. There are enough studies to confirm that their lives are truly miserable. The only way to get them out of this state is to empower them with some self sustaining skills.

Guild of Service successfully completed 2 batches of training with the objectives:

  1. To provide a medium of instruction in basic health care so as to give them employment opportunities.
  2. To give them basic knowledge of health care for the benefit of their own selves, peer group and immediate neighbourhood.
  3. By giving them educational and employment opportunities, the self-esteem of the women would be greatly enhanced giving them the requisite confidence to face life.
  4. Enhancement of self-esteem and occupational therapy would help many of these women to come to terms with their emotional trauma.

Proper care was taken to screen candidates for the course so as to ensure that the most indigent women benefited. The remaining willing women were kept on waiting lists. Trainees are in the age group of 25-40. The groups mainly comprised of single women, divorcees, separated women, deserted and widows living on streets of Vrindavan. Minimum qualification of the candidates was class five.

As incentives the students are provided daily conveyance, weekly ration costs and monthly stipend. Since most widows have no income of their own and beg or visit Bhajanashrams to earn their daily bread, it is necessary to compensate for these. Various qualified teachers and lecturers give the training. Equal emphasis was laid on practical training. All necessary equipments affordable within the shoestring budget was made available to the mini laboratory. Maa Saraswati Hospital renders its services for practical classes and demonstrations. Regular visits to the training center are made from Guild of Service, Delhi. At the end of the term examination is conducted to evaluate the gain in learning of the students. Certificates are awarded to all the successful candidates.

Inspite of handicaps like lack of formal education and age these women have proved that these criteria are irrelevant when a person is determined to acquire skills. Confidence in their gait is clearly visible. Most students of first two batches are employed both part time and full time as nursing assistants in various hospitals, nursing homes and as private nursing assistants in and around Mathura. This program has at large received tremendous response from the community for which it is meant.

Nurses Aid Training Program, Kashmir

The Guild of Service launched its six months Nurses Aid Training Program in the traumatized area of Kashmir. 50 destitute were trained under this program. Widows in militancy affected areas of Budgam, Anantnag, Doda and Kupwara are economically impoverished and do not have adequate training to enhance their economic status. This was one of the major points that was highlighted in the random survey conducted within these districts. Since health care is a vital issue, partially educated women can be given auxiliary nurses training. This would help them to be nursing assistants and consequently enhance their economic status and self-esteem.

After 6 months of training the women as envisaged can become competent to work as nursing assistants in hospitals, health centres, clinics or even homes taking care of the aged or infirm.

Applications were invited from eligible candidates and final selection was made after interview with representatives of both Guild of Service and partner NGOs to ascertain the capability and the sincerity of the candidate.

The main lectures are delivered by qualified registered and practicing doctors who apart from earning an honorarium in terms of fees for lectures gain an added status of helping NGOs to rebuild the framework of civil society.

The training program hopes to achieve the following results

  • Economic empowerment of the destitute women so as to give them opportunity to rebuild their lives.
  • Trauma management of affected women through training program, interaction with others and occupational therapy.
  • Supporting the health care system in the state by providing trained nursing aids
  • To enhance the governmental efforts to rebuild civil society in the state.

Vocational Training

The cutting tailoring centre of the Guild of Service catered to more than 100 students this year. They were exposed to a variety of skills which they can bring to use both in day to day life and for generating some income.

Group Marriage Ceremony

Guild of Service under its program of promoting interreligious, intercaste dowryless and simple marriages for the disadvantaged groups performed marriages of three couples, one Muslim and two Hindus on 13th April2001 in collaboration with the organization Swar Manjari. On the 19th of November2001 marriages of nine Hindu couples were performed. More than 500 guests were present at the occasion to bless the couples and grace the occasion. A grand feast was given to the couple, their relatives, friends and the guests. Couples were given household articles and clothes worth Rs. 6000/- and proper marriage certificates were issued after the wedding. On both the occasions proper orientation on family planning and ways to make a good home was given to the couples.

Family Counselling Centre, Delhi

The Family Counseling Centre has been running for the past one and half decades. Family is one of the social institutions in our society and it forms the backbone of our social structure. As a social unit, family reveals the following important characteristics:

  • Since family represents an enduring relationship, reckoning of lineage either through father or mother is also a characteristic of a family.
  • Child bearing and economic factors contribute to the constitution of the family.
  • Relationships between the members of the family are socially sanctioned and are of a traditional nature.
  • Living together of various members is also one of the characteristics of a family.

If the dynamics of the family, which includes maintenance, reciprocal affection, biological, psychological, social functions and socialization etc. are disturbed then psychosocial problems automatically arise.

The following are factors which affect the ways in which families function:

  • Changing patterns in society and family
  • Individual behavior in the family
  • Changing family functions
  • Transmission of culture
  • Changing relationships between adults and between parents and children
  • Changing role of women
  • Drive for egalitarianism in employment and education
  • Technological advances
  • Changing needs in the labour market
  • The conflicts in need of the partners to start a family
  • The conversion of joint families and extended families into nuclear families

The transition from the joint family to nuclear family involves a systematic change in role structures through process of differentiation. Compared to joint family, the combination of role structures in a nuclear family are fewer, the authority system and networks of kinship relations are also different. Moreover, the feelings of individualism, personal freedom, activities of men and women takes a new direction. In this situation, the emotional universe of persons oscillates between degrees of attachment and alienation and resultant tension breeds a type of personality, which has a greater empathetic capacity, is more independent and capable to cope with crises situations. Due to these new directions people in our society may get more psychosocial problems.

The Family Counseling Centre at Guild of Service helps the individual achieve an enhanced level of functioning when they are unable to cope with the problems brought by these changes. The basic purpose is to:

  • Enhance the quality of life and the adaptive balance between human beings and their ecological environment
  • Strengthen and supplement family life where particular needs have been identified
  • Provide rehabilitation when the individuals or familys adaptive capacities are weakened or lacking
  • To prepare individuals and families for meeting a spectrum of developmental life tasks, through services aimed at preventing problems and crises, strengthening family coping skills and developing accessible resource networks.

Through the years Guild of Service has expanded the area of counseling to encompass various problems. It had started as the service for women who are battered and exploited physically and emotionally. Now the services have been extended to include the following:

  • To prevent children from exploitation and to provide services to abused children, school drop-outs, slow learners and children with behavioral patterns.
  • To prevent youth with role-conflicts, alcoholism, drug abuse, sexual problems, marital maladjustments and ambiguities in taking up a career.
  • To prepare the older age group for retirement, death of spouse, illness and adjustment.
  • To help people with mental disturbances, emotional problems and those in crises.

Analyzing the clients and their problems it is evident that the people have become aware of the importance and the need of counseling. The clients are either self-referred or are referred by other professionals, agencies or institutions.

Record is maintained for each client, which contains details of assessment, diagnosis and treatment along with the details of the counseling process. Confidentiality is maintained by ensuring that all records are kept separately. The cases are never discussed outside the professional circle.

An eclectic approach is generally used for dealing with the cases. The approach varies with the needs and idiosyncrasies of each client. Individual, group and family therapy is provided according to the problems and needs of the client. For clients who require further specialized treatment and services, referrals are made to other appropriate institutions.

The broad analysis of the cases this year shows that the marital problems are more in the nuclear family for men and joint family for women. Personal maladjustment arises in nuclear families for both men and women. Alcoholic problem arises for males in lower socio-economic status. Depression and family adjustment problems are more in nuclear families for both males and females (annexure)

Family Counselling Centre, Mathura

The Family Counselling Centre Mathura catered to numerous cases of domestic violence, divorce, dowry harassment etc. thus providing succor to the women in need. Legal help, help with police personnel, psychological counseling and guidance in general was offered to the clients. Thorough and appropriate refresher training was provided to the counselors in charge of the counseling unit. The FCC Mathura had its monthly outreach programmes regularly where in lectures were organized for rural women on issues pertaining to family, health, education and the like. The classification and figures relating to the cases dealt are annexed (annexure).

Support services to people in need

The Guilds initiative of rehabilitation of prostitutes and their children aims to help marginalized women and incorporate them into the mainstream. Alternative vocational skills, and health education is provided. Guild of Service satisfactorily rehabilitated seven girl children of sex workers. Their three months temporary stay was arranged at the Guild of Service. Thorough care of their nutrition, grooming, clothing, study, recreation, mainstreaming and after school work was taken. A regular follow up is done for all such children rehabilitated by us.

Interfaith Peace Prayer

Ever since its inception the Guild of Service has been regularly observing the 8th of March as a day to pray for global peace and communal harmony. On the morning of International Womens day Guild of Service called a gathering of about 100 people, noted social activists and other dignitaries at Amar Jawan Jyoti, India Gate to pay floral tributes to soldiers who laid their lives for the nation. There were prayers from all religions.

Street Childrens Program

This regular program catered to more than 200 children. With efficient, dedicated teachers satisfactory progress was observed in most of the children attending the program. Nutritious meal was provided throughout the year. Efforts were directed at making the school environment as homely as possible. Emphasis was laid on play for overall development of children. Festivals of all religions were celebrated and enjoyed by the children. The children regularly received gifts, stationeries, clothes and similar things. Proper care was taken for their recreation. Children were taken to picnics too.

Working Womens Hostel

The hostel of the Guild of Service provides shelter to more than 80 working women. The Guild offers this service to fulfill its objective to empower women. The hostel was full to its capacity throughout. Regular meetings were held between the boarders and the management. Recreation of residents was duly attended. Cable connection was provided with the television set. The food offered all through the year was appreciated by the boarders. Fire Service was ensured all over the building. Safe electrical wiring through panels was done. Kitchen was renovated to ensure warm and fresh food for the boarders.

Self Help Groups

Self Help Groups have been established to create suitable community base, which will nurture economic development especially amongst poor women and encourage saving, income generation and loaning for their self-reliance and sustainability. Thus focus on thrift, which will empower the women.

Guild of Service has through a grant from Delhi Commission for Women formed 28 Self Help Groups since February 2001 to 2002 March in and around Najafgarh, New Delhi. Each group consists of 20 members and 28 bank accounts have been opened under Guild of Service guidance.

We have established three Balwadis in the area for preschool children, and three sewing centers which has encouraged over all empowerment. We have found that through these programmes ot women and children of that area have gained confidence and are empowered towards independent thinking. It has been an influencing mechanism on men amongst the semi rural community at Najafgarh.

Three legal literacy camps were also organized and the camps have brought about a sea change in the attitude of men and women of that area. Gender issues and various laws including the implementation of the Panchayati Raj system were discussed. About 100 married and unmarried women were present at each one of these camps. Gender discrimination was also discussed and women were advised to take pride in having a girl child. Education was also touched upon since it has relevance in the family and the society at large. The assembled women raised intelligent questions and had their doubts clarified. Sketches in cartoon forms about law were distributed to give a visual idea to the rural women about legal matters, which were greatly appreciated. Needless to say that all these programmes were carried out by the women of that area.

Besides focusing on thrift the members have achieved decision-making skills by managing micro credit of their Groups. Inter loaning has also been undertaken to help themselves.

In the ultimate analysis when the women are given to manage the issues they not only come out successful but are better home makers and decision makers.

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