Commentary

OSI-India

In 2014, Minal Dani (founder of ASHA, OSI's partner in Pune, India) published a book entitled "Understanding Domestic Violence", documenting ASHA's many years of experience with women's issues, including their more recent preventative effort working with younger girls.  OSI's President/Founder composed the forward for the book, below, which describes the impact that Minal's concept, -and OSI's support, has had on the girls in our program, and the impact that the girls in turn are having on their neighbourhood and society.
14 December 2013
OSI began it's partnership with ASHA in 2008, after observing ASHA's fledgling effort for girls in Pune's Janata Vasahat slum.
Minal's idea was simple.  After working for many years addressing domestic violence against women in Pune's impoverished slum neighbourhoods, Minal observed that the history of these victimized women had some startling commonalities.  Virtually all were uneducated, -forced to drop school as early as 5th standard.  Most were forced into child labour, with the responsibility of supporting their families.  Most were likewise forced into arranged marriages before they had reached the age and maturity of adulthood.  While Minal and ASHA focused on each woman case-by-case, they could not help but realize the common issues that had reduced each woman to her present state.
It occurred to Minal that ultimately a preventative effort might be a more effective means of battling domestic violence against women.
Towards this end, with minimal resources, Minal and her staff initiated a program for a small group of girls in a section of the Janata Vasahat neighbourhood.  This is when OSI discovered ASHA, and their remarkable group of girls.  Minal and her staff had devised something like a "business plan", -an impressive all-encompassing, long-term effort to address the barriers that young girls in the slums face; -from fostering their education, to building relationships with the girls' parents and providing parental counseling, to providing for the girls' every material need so as to minimize her burden on the family, to providing psychological counseling to foster the girls' sense of pride, to providing happy childhood memories along the way.  OSI was impressed with the well-contemplated and holistic plan, but equally by the heart and soul of Minal and ASHA.  OSI thus began its partnership with ASHA, OSI's role to provide individual sponsorship for each girl as a financial and emotional source to help achieve ASHA's above objectives.
Five years on, it feels patronizing to say that OSI is pleased and impressed; more accurately, we feel humbled and at the same time exceedingly proud to be a part of the success that ASHA's concept has had with these girls, beyond our highest expectations.  A couple years into the program, ASHA's first group of 10 girls completed 10th standard, -an accomplishment most or all of these would not have realized without ASHA's involvement.  Most remarkably, all 10 girls passed their 10th standard exams, -as has every girl each year since, and all have proceeded to 11th standard.
Ultimately, the educational achievement is the greatest measure of the success of the program. But there are other achievements which in OSI's opinion are perhaps even more remarkable.  First, on our regular visits, we have become quite familiar with each of the girls; we are greatly struck by the self-confidence, pride, and maturity of these girls, due to systematic support and encouragement from ASHA, as well as the girls' own success.  We are likewise struck by comments from numerous of the girls' mothers, who see their daughter achieving what they themselves could only dream of; with unpracticed optimism they realize their daughter may not be sentenced to the same destiny as themselves.
Most recently, and most startling, we see the neighbourhood itself begin to change, due ironically to the very success of these girls.  I say ironically, as while popular wisdom says that it takes a village to raise a child, in Janata Vasahat we see the child changing the village.  In societies, some cultural barriers exist simply because... they have always existed; they are phantom barriers, nothing more than cultural reluctance; become formidable due to something like antiquity, -long-standing trend.  A girl gaining an education suddenly presents the idea that a girl can be educated, and with that little bit of audacity, the trend begins to be altered.  ASHA hoped to prove that these barriers can be surmounted.  But what is happening is that barriers begin to be removed.  The achievement of these girls is making success itself acceptable; the reluctance is being chipped away, and the barriers themselves becoming easier to surmount.
True it is, as lately discovered by social science, -the development of societies is dependent on the girl.  This is what we are lately observing in ASHA's little corner of Janata Vasahat.  This is what ASHA and these outstanding girls have achieved, and OSI could not be more proud or more honoured to be a part of this outstanding effort.
Nick M. Hindman
President/Founder
Orphan Sponsorship International
OSI-India Site Page - With photos, maps, and information about OSI-India

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