Prayasam started the project, PERIOD...menstruation matters in 2018. It is Menstrual Education Movement to create awareness through bottom up approach. Inst e ad of following the traditional method of only distributing sanitary packs, this project focuses changing attitude towards menstruation, bring behavioural change where girls and women themselves have understanding o f why menstruation happens, the hygiene and cleanliness to be maintained, use of sanitary pads and others.
In 2018 Prayasam conducted series of Focus Group Discussions in it’s 15 programme areas, 10 government aided schools and 5 colleges. It created a data bank about the prevalent norms and understanding of urban poor about menstruation – the social taboos, religious connotations, myths, social practices, health and hygiene misconception. The data was classified with analytical comparison across different ethnic backgrounds and migrant population.
In 2019, based on the data and with the support of ORFL (Overseas Resource Foundation Limited), Prayasam conducted training programmes, workshops and sessions on menstruation, discussions on menstrual hygiene management using posters, sessions on menstrual cycle and its relation with pregnancy, among others. These sessions were conducted with 800 girls and women in 15 communities, 5 government aided schools with nearly 200 students per school, and in 5 colleges with nearly 400 student per college. All the girls and women were provided with PERIOD PACKS. Additionally, the youth developed 8 short films on menstrual taboos and myths and hosted PERIOD FILM FESTIVAL to initiate dialogue and discussion.
Since the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, the sessions are being conducted online. Considering the poor internet connectivity in the slums and their incapacity to handle online sessions, Prayasam with the support of Adobe, had setup WiFi zones in the communities and conducted online sessions in small batches to ensure proper physically distancing. These sessions were organized by the community youth groups mentored by Prayasam.
In order to make the sessions more understandable, the worksheets were digitalized and short videos on each topic were created in simple vernacular language. These were circulated through respective community WhatsApp groups. And the families that did not have access to these visual materials, Prayasam community youth group members would screen them in hamlets on tablets provided by the organization. The topic include how menstruation cycle varies with body type, food habits, haemoglobin percentage, stress, menstruation taboos affecting the health and hygiene, mapping of knowledge exposure to menstruation and authenticity of information and its sources.
Both the years, PERIOD FILM FESTIVAL was hosted online with the films made by the youth. Youth from Bangladesh and Kenya were collaborated in the virtual Film Festival.
So far Prayasam has distributed PERIOD PACKS to 2700 girls and women in 15 urban slums; 1600 in 5 government aided schools and 5 colleges.
This Menstrual Education Movement has created an understanding of the biological, hormonal and psychological aspects of menstruation among the youth, both boys and girls. And as a ripple effect, the taboos and myths associated with the subject also had a break through. Additionally, the youth are better aware about the health and hygiene related matters during the menstruation.
Since this project also targets the adult women, it has established dialogue and communication about the topic of menstruation in the families and schools. Unfortunately in the current situation, there is complete absence of any communication between the mothers and daughters on this subject; neither do the teachers discuss the topic nor do they teach the chapters on menstruation during the biological classes. Hence there is lot of misinformation both among the adults and youth.
A sense of empathy and sensitivity is gradually growing among the youth as both the girls and boys together undertake the sessions. Hence, there are reduced incidence of domestic violence and sexual harassment. The boys had no knowledge about the basics of menstruation and hence the girls are often faced with bullying. This project has ensured that both the gender have correct information and understanding of this basic biological factor.
The project has made a breakthrough to the culture of shame surrounding the topic of menstruation. The youth will be more informed, aware and sensitized about the subject.
Girls empowerment in rural West Bengal
In West Bengal, girls and boys face a variety of barriers to completing school education. Child marriage, poverty, migration and child labour are some of the reasons for both boys and girls to drop out especially after the elementary stage. In this context, minority institutions like Madrassas/makhtabs, need more facilities to meet the objective of the Right to Education Act (RTE) and need based interventions for preventing early marriage and reducing the high dropout rate to ensure completion of girls’ education.
In order to attend to these challenges Prayasam in collaboration with West Bengal Board of Madrasah Education (WBBME) supported by Unicef, initiated a pilot of the Meena Manch program in the districts of Malda, Murshidabad, Kolkata, Howrah, Hoogly, North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas from 2012 to 2019. The objective was empowering girls from minority communities, by ensuring their right to participation, retention and completion of education at the secondary level in madrasahs.
As part of the strategy to improve transition to Secondary schools and reduce drop out and early marriage, Meena Manch intervention was initiated in 80 Madrasa in Malda by Salt Lake City Prayasam in collaboration with West Bengal Madrasah Board for implementing Meena Manch in 82Madarsas in Malda since 2012. Thus Meena Manch was initiated as a pilot project to improve retention and reduce early marriage in Madrasahs and in the past five years Meena Manch has demonstrated many success stories like bringing more than 2500 drop out children to school, stopping 600 early marriages, negotiating with Panchayat for improved sanitation for the communities. Regular interaction with MeenaManch , regular monitoring of activities agreed as part of activity calendar made MeenaManch work as a pressure group both in School and communities. Teachers, community leaders have expressed their excitement regarding the capacity of MeenaManch in stopping early marriages, community awareness, bringing children to Schools.
During the first phase the primary component of the project strategy was sensitization of all concerned stakeholders, including institutional heads followed by capacity building of teachers on Group Formation (MeenaManch) and activity based Life-skill education through Multi level Advocacy. Other activities included random follow-up visits and organizing educational camps for providing handholding support to both students and teachers.
The primary objectives of the second phase aimed at intense and focused capacity building of teachers and students on Activity Calendar, diverse communication media for developing their own IEC/advocacy materials on RTE, SSHE as well as playing the role of empowered change agents and peer educators in the madrasahs and community. Following this training sessions included refresher sessions for both teachers and students on diverse Communication tools development (Community Mapping, poster/slogan comics, puppetry, theatre, and newsletter) for advocacy and community mobilization. To create a pool of master trainers at the cluster level in Malda district, workshops were organised for MeenaManch facilitating teachers on Standard Activity Calendar development, Monitoring and Evaluation and Meena Manch Coordination.
In 2018 in Malda and Murshidabad and later in 2019 in Kolkata, Howrah, Hoogly, North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas, as part of exit strategy, the District Resource Group (DRG) comprising of Madrasah teachers, will be fully capacitated with adequate skills and competencies to take responsibility of all Meena Manch training requirements and monitoring needs.
Till date the project catered to 167 Madrasahs and 6680 Meena Manch members have been directly trained. 501000 students have been reached and 2004000 family members have been addressed.
The Meena Manch initiative has demonstrated how social, cultural and economic barriers can be overcome by working in partnership with the school authorities, resource agencies, parents and communities. It is an example of a how a strong commitment to good quality education and empwerment of girls can have a wide ranging impact on the larger community living outside the school walls.
Mayer Pujor Mahabhog
In Indian culture, on a regular day and particularly during any festival the mothers are the last members of the family to take food. This is the cultural norm and has the backing of eons of tradition. As a result, they are mostly malnourished and suffer from anaemia. This campaign was launched with the objective to breakthrough this orthodox custom.
The youth organized the campaign, Mayer Pujo Mahabhog (Gender Orientation), whereby they took note of the mothers’ favourite recipes and cooked special luncheon for them. This campaign has been ongoing since 2018.
While taking interview of nearly 50 mother, we found interesting facts like the mothers were in reverie when they were asked that if someday they have the opportunity to be the first ones to take lunch in their house; 8 out of 10 mothers said that no one had ever asked them if they have any favourite food; they refused to believe that their children will be organizing special luncheon for them on the festival.
Prayasam youth group members made sure that the mothers were the first one to eat the food and have a hearty chat sharing their favourite childhood memories. This was another conscious effort because in their constant juggle to earn as well as to look after the family, the mothers hardly get time to relive their childhood nostalgia. They rather end up end being a machine catering to everybody’s needs, whims and fancies except their own.
Parar Panch Meshali
There are so many recipes which are highly innovative, nutritious, easy to make and at the same time highly stomach filling. But they are not commonly known to people because maybe it is the traditional food of few families, or maybe someone has invented it by their own and only make them in their own house. Parar Panch Meshali (Community Cuisine) campaign is to identify those unique recipes and their chefs, who are common people like you and me without any professional degree in hotel management.
The main objective of this campaign is to promote cost effective healthy and nutritious recipes. It is often considered that healthy diet is tasteless and expensive. This campaign aims to break this stereotypical food notion and highlight indigenous recipes.
More than 500 recipes were found from all the programme areas. The youth members of Prasaad Commercial Kitchen will soon be launching a recipe book, curating these unique healthy easy to make recipes.
Bad and Beautiful World Film Festival
BBW (Bad and Beautiful World) is not just a Film Festival that we commonly see or an award function like IIFA. It is the voices of the commoners derived from their real life experienced incident/s, an outlet for their thousands of unexpressed emotions and feelings...a cathartic platform.
The films screened at the Bad and Beautiful World Film Festival are expression of the sociological and anthropological aspects and impact of the pandemic. It projected how the psychological, emotional and mental structure of humans was completely shaken by unexpected series of incidents which they were totally unprepared for.
Since 2013 have been supported by Adobe Project 1324, Indian Oil Corporation, ACC Cement Limited, and National Insurance Corporation Limited and endorsed by Films Division of India. Besides, The Telegraph was the curtain raiser partner of the first year of Bad and Beautiful World Film Festival. Over the years, this campaign has been widely covered by leading national and local daily newspaper including The Telegraph, Times of India, The Statesman, Ananda Bazar Patrika, Bartaman, Anno Samaye, Ei Samaye, Aajkaal, Protidin, Salt Lake edition of The Telegraph.
Every year, Bad and Beautiful World Film Festival hosted red carpet with the actors. Thanks to the Film Festivals like Cannes, Venice, Filmfare, red carpet has become a trend. But when you are the sole attention of the host, all the cameras, audience, it can be quite intimidating. Why does Prayasam's BBW Film Festival host Red Carpet? It is to build the confidence of the actors, create their strong presentation and communication skill. The actors are trained by Prayasam's Ontrack Grassroot Management Institute in how to handle the red carpet - what to say, how to say, where to stop - the art of speaking requires a conviction which BBW Film Festival facilitates through its Red Carpet component.
Also given the socialization culture of our Indian society, we are always oriented not to brag about our work and achievements. Hence, often the youth never speak about their great ventures as they themselves do not see the value of their work. The Red Carpet makes the youth see the worth of their initiative as they speak and discuss about their work to the larger audience, who are interested to know their experiences.
Bad and Beautiful World Film Festival has always tried to use this platform for community mobilization, using films as a tool of sensitization and awareness. Maintaining the core of their vision, Prayasam Visual Basics youth filmmakers ensured that it is their community people who acted in their films. Facing a camera requires lot of confidence and self belief and through the process of workshop and shooting Prayasam Visual Basics focused on the improvement of body language, confidence and conduct.
THROUGH MY EYES
Mobile photography exhibition
PROTIDIN PRAYASAM PRONAAM
Culture through Cuisine
Culture Through Cuisine is a campaign by Prasaad Commercial Kitchen of Prayasam brings different cultures across the length and breadth of the globe in the form of food. Food and Culture go hand in hand and the campaign focused on spreading the message of harmony and peace through sharing of food culture. From Kenya to Spain, state of Bihar to Mangalore, people from different states, regions, countries shared their traditional recipes as well as the history and sociological context of how the food originated, their dance and music forms, the topic of food in cinema across different cultures. Simultaneously, there are sharing on the nutritional and hygiene aspects. The idea is rooted in the core believe of traditional healthy and nutritious recipes with contemporary essence.
Under this campaign, there are culinary Facebook show series, MAA TUJHE SALAAM (Saluting the Mothers) featuring original recipes by community mothers.
Combat Covid -19
The world has been ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic and India is no exception. As the news of the epidemic began spreading, our Area Health Minders initiated an extensive campaign named “Combat Covid-19” much before the country went into lockdown.
The situation at grassroots Social media is extremely powerful in our country. Facebook sharing and WhatsApp forwards have become the source of information across the generations now. But how authentic is the source of such information? When the research team of Prayasam spoke to the community people in different programme areas, we found that their knowledge is full of misinformation and myths. The Area Health Minders did a thorough study on the disease with the help of Prayasam’s research team. They conducted learning from the WHO website about the dos and don’ts to prevent the spread of Covid-19 to knowledge about virus’ community transmission to situation in other countries of the world.
The communicative graffiti was developed in all the programme areas. The key information that were shared through these graffiti included the 7 steps of hand wash, using cloth or flexing elbows while coughing or sneezing, avoid gatherings, among others. The Area Health Minders visited each lane of every community and conducted hamlet workshops on handwashing and sharing information on preventive health measures. The team, along with the community mothers, liaison with the health department of Govt. of West Bengal to provide awareness posters on preventive measures against Covid-19. These were then circulated and put up on the walls of every house of the communities.
This initiative was widely covered by leading daily national newspapers including The Hindu and The Telegraph.
Tablet Talks is the film distribution strategy of Prayasam Visual Basics at the community level. There are screening at every lane of the community using tablets. These are hamlet community screenings to initiate discussions and debate post the screening to generate public opinion around the community issues and positive stories. For this purpose, they are 10 teams of four members— the Arranger is responsible for informing the community people in the respective lanes about the time and the place within the lane where the screening will take place; the Projectionist handles all the technical aspects of the screening; the Communicator is responsible for initiating and facilitating the post-screening dialogue and discussion among the community people; and the Documenter documents the entire process of the screening visually.
Case in point, during the screening of the short film TREACHER, based on a real life story of sexual harassment by a teacher, nearly 180 girls and young women reported having similar experience but they could never speak about it before fearing stigma.
Tablet Talks triggers discussion so that people can share their life experiences which are archived in Prayasam Visual Basics story bank for making films each year.
SHONIBARER SHONABELA is Salt Lake and Rajarhat Audio Story Competition by Prayasam. Reading short stories has been a part of every Bengali family culture since time immemorial. As we proudly boast of our lineage of Rabindranath Tagore, Manik Bandhopadhyay, Tarashankar Bandhopadhyay, Premendra Mitra, Premchand, Jaishankar Prasad, among many other notable writers, reading stories is gradually a dwindling habit of 21st century. Kindle is replacing books and Instagram reels are becoming our pastime. Besides, pandemic has further added to the already suffering mental health condition of our youth. Facebook, news channels, WhatsApp forwards are immersed in negative news of people dying and the crippling health machinery of the state and world at large.
Participating block and housing complexes are Salt Lake CJ, Salt Lake FE, Salt Lake FD, Salt Lake BD, Newtown BA, Newtown BD, and Newtown Greenwood Sonata.
It is an online competition commencing from 2nd of October 2021 and the three winners will be awarded on 31st of December 2021 at the mega award ceremony of Prayasam’s annual festival Protidin Prayasam Pronaam.
SHONIBARER SHONABELA is an effort of Prayasam for revival of the tradition of storytelling with the touch of digital era, that is, Audio Story. So that it can be a positive diversion to our youth brigade who are glued to their mobile screens throughout the day with no other alternative. At least listening to interesting stories will trigger their creative bend of mind to embark on something positive in their own little way, however miniscule that be.
This is the first ever audio story competition among the Salt Lake and Rajarhat Blocks.