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Home for Destitute Women (Swadhar Gruha)

Home for Destitute Women (Swadhar Gruha)

Location: Rayagada District, Odisha

SNEH’s ‘Swadhar Gruha’ in Rayagada town in Odisha currently accommodates some 50 destitute women and girls, many of whom have been ostracized and abandoned by their families or their communities. This is the only home functioning in this tribal-dominated district, and the primary aim of this project is to either reconcile the women with their families of attempt to rehabilitate and mainstream them by providing vocational skills training. During their stay at the Home, the women are provided food, shelter, healthcare and legal aid, should they require it.

They undertake vocational training courses in tailoring, leaf-plate making, appliqué work, embroidery and saree-making, to bolster their employment potential so that they can become self-sufficient and financially independent. Frequent psycho-social, legal and trauma counseling are also provided to these women.

In 2015-16, of the 89 women housed at Swadhar Gruha, 74 were rehabilitated. SNEH is also a ‘service provider’ to check domestic violence in the Rayagada district. Lawyers are made available by the organization to provide free legal advice and to help the women reconcile with their husbands or in-laws. The Swadhar Gruha enjoys a good rapport with the district and local authorities, and is managed by a ‘Home Committee’ comprising advocates, social activists, reporters, police personnel and other government officials from the district.

HIV/AIDS & STDs Program

Location: Salia Sahi Slum, Bhubaneswar, Odisha

SNEH has been working on an impactful and inclusive HIV/AIDS prevention and control programme since 1995. The first few STD clinics were set up in JKPur and Rayagada, but now SNEH has shifted its HIV/AIDS intervention entirely to Salia Sahi slum in Bhubaneswar, one of the most congested and underserved pockets of the Odisha capital.

SNEH’s direct intervention includes one-on-one or group counseling, awareness programs, public rallies, street plays, group-education programs, quiz competitions, sports events, condom distribution – all with an eye to creating an enabling environment that will foster an attitude and behavior change in the slum communities.
The main objectives of SNEH’s flagship ‘Youth in Action Against HIV/AIDS’ program has been to increase public awareness about STDs/HIV/AIDS among the youth, as well as the older slum inhabitants. Engaging the youth is essential to the project’s success: It accords them a sense of ownership and, as future leaders, gives them a voice in decisions that will impact their lives.

The Salia Sahi youngsters’ energy and outlook has been an essential resource in the expansion of the HIV/AIDS project. Sports, music, theatre and workshops have been an innovative and creative means to reach the message to a critical target group that has been feeling a disconnect with the primary issues of sexual health and hygiene. Also, prevalent gender inequity has kept girls out of the mainstream when it comes to education and training programs, leaving them at greater risk to violence and STDs.

The great mismatch between job opportunities and skills training (backed by relevant education), has led to fewer employment and entrepreneurship prospects, especially in the slums. And finally, parental care, peer approval and support from the wider community can be strong influences to help the slum youth stay away from substance abuse, alcoholism, violence, suicide and of course unsafe sexual behaviour. Having someone to confide in and count on during a crisis; someone to give advice and care can be of tremendous help.

SNEH’s staff at the local Sampriti Resource Center, and the Youth Cells in Salia Sahi, fulfil this role excellently. These are venues for programs, meetings, knowledge-sharing, community dialogue or just a place for the youngsters to get together. A Youth Cell for the adolescent girls and young women of the slum has also been set up, and is managed by a trained psychologist who provides counseling and moral support to victims of gender and domestic violence. The cell is used for training programs, workshops for the stakeholders, and also has space (and privacy) for inter-personal counseling. Different training programs on reproductive health rights, gender and peacebuilding and motivation and aspiration, are conducted at the center. Among the special events held here are International Women’s Day and World AIDS Day commemorations; and football and kabaddi tournaments for adolescent girls. ‘Freddie for A Day’—a musical event spreading awareness on the life and achievements of rock star Freddie Mercury, is organized every year on September 5.

Peace Building Programs

Location: Kandhamal District and Bhubaneswar, Odisha

The otherwise-peaceful state of Odisha has seen a spate of unprecedented communal violence in recent times, followed by a spurt of Left-wing extremism in different parts of the state. SNEH has initiated strategic peace-education interventions for school and college students in Bhubaneswar, and in the Kandhamal district of Odisha (the latter, following communal conflicts in Kandhamal in 2008). SNEH also conducts peace-building programs for slum communities in Bhubaneswar, and is an active member of the state-level citizen’s forum, ‘Odisha Nagarika Samaj’.

SNEH’s Centre for Peace and Non-violence in Bhubaneswar, called ‘SAMPRITI’, functions as a training-cum-resource centre for peacebuilding and reconciliation in the state. ‘SAMPRITI’ has a library stocked with resource materials like books, journals and research papers on peace and conflict studies. The Centre also provides a platform for regular interfacing among scholars, academics and activists who are also available for consultation and information-sharing on issues related to social unrest, violence and communal strife. At the time of social unrest and communal conflicts SNEH mobilizes the peace builders of the state to rush to the problem areas to diffuse tension and violence and usher in peace and normalcy. Training programs on various peace building and conflict resolution aspects are organized regularly for different stake holders at SAMPRITI.

SNEH has been working with the violence prone marginalized slum community in Bhubaneswar to minimize domestic violence and restore family peace. The slum youths are also mobilized through various sporting and cultural activities to wean them away from violence. SNEH has been organizing various training programs for slum women, community leaders, youths and adolescent girls and boys on peace building and conflict resolution in SAMPRITI.

Keeping in mind the growing violence and strife on educational campuses, SNEH has initiated peace-building and conflict-resolution activities by involving students from the various colleges of Bhubaneswar since 2010. Young MSW students undergo a series of training programs on peace-building and conflict-resolution. They subsequently work as peace ambassadors in their respective colleges, and in society in general.

Health and Livelihood program

Location: G. Udayagiri Block, Kandhamal District, Odisha

SNEH began its peace-building intervention in the G. Udayagiri Block of Kandhamal district in Odisha, in the immediate aftermath of horrifying communal conflicts in 2008. Initiatives on conflict resolution and restoration of communal harmony and peace were undertaken in the beginning. Later, endemic issues like malnutrition, health, hygiene and sanitation, and livelihood strengthening activities were also included in the intervention.

SNEH initially focused on women and child healthcare in 10 villages of the Ratingia G.P of G. Udayagiri block (the Infant Mortality Rate in Kandhamal district is the highest in the state). Pregnant women and lactating mothers have been included as the main stakeholders of the programme, and both curative as well as preventive healthcare practices have been adopted to improve the health status of the target population. A convergent approach was followed to integrate the intervention with government programs like Mamata and Janani Surakshya Yojnas. Various awareness and sensitization programs have been undertaken through trainings, workshops, camps, rallies and events relating to nutrition, health, sanitation and mother and childcare.

The main source of livelihood of the people of the district is agriculture and the collection of Non-timber Forest Produce (NTFP). Not having a rail head, Kandhamal has poor connectivity with the other districts of Odisha. Only 12% of its total area is cultivable, while 71% comprises forests and the rest is barren land. The farmers are mostly marginal or landless share-croppers who adopt shifting cultivation on the hill slopes. After a harvest of paddy in October-end, the rural workforce migrates to the neighboring states of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Telangana in search of work.

SNEH has introduced modern farming practices through popularisation of SRI (System of Rice Intensification) and row transplantation of paddy. Farmers have been trained in ‘natural farming’ through the use of Indigenous Micro Organisms (IMO) prepared by using locally-sourced materials. This new technology has also contributed to improve the health and nutrition of the local people.

SNEH has also introduced new cash crops like maize, sunflower, pulses and mushroom in the area through crop diversification training programs. Capacity-building programs for women farmers have been organized to benefit the village women who have formed Self Help Groups (SHGs) linked to local banks. Vocational training programs like masonry, mobile-handset repair and IT and computer training have been organized to reinforce the livelihood activities of the youth of Kandhamal district.

Residential High School for Tribal Girls

Location: Rayagada District, Odisha

Since 1995, Society for Nature, Education and Health (SNEH) has been managing a fully-residential High School for Tribal Girls (from Class I to Class X), in Rayagada, a remote tribal district of Odisha. The school, Nalini Vidya Mandir (NVM), is located in an area that is included in the Integrated Tribal Development Project and Tribal Sub Plan area, but also has a significant Maoist presence.

Nalini Vidya Mandir is the only high school for tribal girls in the larger Bissamcuttack area to be run by an NGO providing education free of cost. The school, which receives support from the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, seeks to bring tribal girls into the mainstream while also keeping them in touch with their roots. An integrated residential-cum-school living situation has enabled the 332 female students to be provided with nutritious food, clothing and safe accommodation, and a specially-curated academic programme keeps them at par with the curriculum and academic instruction provided at any mainstream school in Odisha. Remarkably, in its 22 years of existence, NVM has not seen a single drop-out, even though the students come from disenfranchised and economically-depressed families, and there is a lot of pressure on them to contribute to the family income from a very young age.

NVM students not only excel in education but also top in extracurricular activities at both the state and district levels, winning prizes in sports, science exhibitions, painting and drawing and essay-writing competitions.

The students are given vocational training to facilitate future income generation by leveraging their traditional skills as Dongria Kondh tribals, but also providing them with 21st century skills. They are trained in Dongria Kondh shawl-making, tailoring, embroidery and leaf-plate making, and the older students are given basic IT and computer training as well.

NVM activities are managed by SNEH through its School Management Committee in constant consultation with a Mother’s Committee. Both these committees are drawn from the tribal community and include parents of the students. All school decisions are discussed and implemented by these committees working together.

Nalini Vidya Mandir received the popular ‘Prakruti Mitra’ award from the Odisha Forest and Environment department in 2016.

Youth Volunteering

Location: Various places in Odisha

SNEH has always encouraged the participation of youth in social development. Students from local colleges and professional institutions are involved in various programs and events organized by SNEH. Every year, students from the Masters in Social Work (MSW) institutions come to SNEH for internship programs, and these young professionals are groomed by our resource persons and staff with real-time exposure to various projects being implemented by SNEH. In this way, SNEH has developed a pool of volunteers who work as change agents in their respective communities.

Tutorial Centre

Location: Salia Sahi slum, Bhubaneswar

To compensate for the poor quality of education provided in government schools in Odisha, SNEH has started special morning and evening free tutorial classes for children from the Salia Sahi slum in Bhubaneswar. Most slum families are below the poverty line (BPL) and cannot afford the coaching their children might need, to do better in the board-level examinations.

The Tutorial Centre has not only helped many slum children improve in their studies, it has also checked the drop-out rates in schools in the vicinity of Salia Sahi. The students benefit from individual attention and a customised learning approach that is sensitive to their circumstances and community problems. This keeps them engaged, interested in education and away from petty crimes and substance abuse that is common among children growing up in slums around the country. Providing coaching and bolstering education efforts are a part of the wider community intervention undertaken by SNEH. Currently, more than 50 children attend these tutorial classes, which have four teachers.

Greening Odisha

Location: Erasama Block

The 1999 supercyclone uprooted and destroyed over nine crore trees across 14 districts in Odisha. In 2000, SNEH started a ‘village greening’ initiative among the women and children of the worst-hit Erasama Block in Odisha. More than 500 children and 300 women planted fruit-bearing and shade-giving trees that they still tend to today, after so many years, by frequently de-weeding, watering and putting up protective barriers. In 2010, more than 1,000 saplings were planted to further the program. In 2002, 500 schoolchildren participated in SNEH’s ‘Campaign Coconut’ — an effort to regenerate coconut palms in the area and restore a small but significant part of Odisha’s green cover.

A part of SNEH’s reconstruction program in the supercyclone-affected areas has been largescale plantation activities and avenue plantations, and restoration of village forests and back-yard vegetable gardens.

SNEH has also helped schools students ‘think green’ and contribute to conserving the environment by organizing special programs for them. Working to save the environment started indoors – with sit & draw and poster competitions, debates and essay writing. From a crash course in bird-watching and wilderness survival skills, to cleaning up the forest and learning to identify trees, SNEH has helped a large number of schoolchildren to discover the naturalist inside them

SNEH has been actively participating in the National Environment Awareness Programs (NEAC) every year since 1997.

Disaster Management Program

Location: Kendrapara District, Odisha

The floods of 2014 left more than nine lakh people, across 23 Odisha districts, marooned and homeless. The worst affected were the people of Jajpur, Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur districts, where the district administration, in the aftermath of the floods, focused its evacuation and relief work. But the biggest challenge faced by the administration once the waters receded, was a plethora of ailments and epidemics like diarrhea, cholera, skin diseases and general fever, cough and colds among the flood-affected people. A more long-term problem was that the open wells, which were a primary source of drinking water for the people in these districts, had become contaminated. Urgent steps were required to clean and restore the wells, and spread awareness among the local people about purifying their drinking water.

SNEH rushed a team of doctors, paramedics and volunteers to Patamundai Block in Kendrapara district, to administer emergency healthcare to the flood-affected people. SNEH organized health camps in the remote areas and distributed essential medicines, while simultaneously carrying out awareness programs about flood-related health hazards.

Apart from providing on-ground logistical support — transport, hospitality, food, snacks, bottled water etc to the medical teams — SNEH distributed generic drugs for ailments like diarrhea, cholera, fever, cough and cold, and skin diseases. Affected people were supplied with halogen tablets and bleaching powder, procured from the district health authorities, to purify their drinking and other water sources.

NUHM Mahila Arogya Samiti

Location: Paradeep Municipal Area, Odisha

SNEH has been identified by the National Urban Health Mission (NUHM), Government. of Odisha, to take steps for the formation and capacity-building of Mahila Arogya Samitis (MAS) in the Paradeep municipal area. Seventeen MAS’ have been formed in the 17 slums of the area.  SNEH has also sensitized the dwellers of another 22 slums on health-related issues, superstitions, maternal healthcare, new-born care and the welfare schemes of the Central and State governments through staging of Pala (a folk dance form) and organizing slum meetings. The meetings, which are informative and participatory, are conducted by SNEH’s trained personnel, and are attended by community leaders, local corporators and district officials.