Communication, critical thinking, creativity, self-awareness, decision-making, problem solving, empathy, interpersonal relationships, stress management and emotional health are important components required for efficient life skills. Life skills education is key to facing and overcoming life’s challenges to achieve a more secure, prosperous, and dignified life. A large part of our population, especially rural schoolchildren, lack these basic skills due to poor-quality education. Girls and women in the rural areas also lag behind, making them financially and overly dependent on others.
In June 2018, Sehgal Foundation with support from HDFC Bank, partnered for a Parivartan Pariyojana in Narnaul region of Mahendragarh, Haryana. The project, covering nine villages in the region, is aimed at integrated village development, including interventions in agriculture, water, governance, life skills, and digital literacy training of youth.
The project intervention is aimed to upskill young girls and women to enable them to live with self-reliance. Each life skills education session includes twenty to twenty-four young women, training them to stitch clothes and grooming them as beauty specialists. The training is spread over six months with two hours of daily classroom sessions. The coursework revolves around developing the emotional and mental abilities to make rational decisions. The youth are taught about health and hygiene, dreams, and aspirations, and how to achieve them. Youth become informed about various government schemes benefiting them. Modules on decision-making enable them to make important life and financial decisions on their own. The attendees of these sessions, post-training, begin their own line of work. Some youth have ventured into entrepreneurship.
Manisha, a class 12 student from village Lujota, finds tremendous changes in herself, “Before attending these classes I had not realized that there was so much new to learn. I have been going to school, but I hardly knew of anything other than what was needed to attain good marks. I realized my potential and ability to have financial independence. I had aspired to be a nurse, but due to financial shortage, I could not pursue my dreams. But after attending the classes, I know there is no stopping me. With my newfound confidence and skills, I can become independent and accomplish new heights. I have taken up stitching, and I am no longer dependent on my parents. Through stitching, I earn a decent sum for myself and my family.”
The LSE instructor at village Lujota shares that Manisha was not confident in her approach when she first met her. But now Manisha exudes self-motivation and motivates other girls in her village to be a part of life skills education classes.
Despite opposition from inlaws, Sarita Devi from village Donkhera showed perseverance and grit along with her husband to begin her own beauty parlor cum boutique at Nangal Chowdhary, a town forty-five minutes from her village. She had never thought of being an entrepreneur till she took a course in beautician training at the life skills education center in her village. The beautician course was spread across a month and a half with weekly training on stitching. Four months into her entrepreneurial journey, she is confident of her independent and promising future.
“Village Donkhera is one of the most remote villages in Mahendragarh, and seeing this transformation take place in youth of this village gives utmost satisfaction,” says Rinku, the life skills instructor. She adds, “When I joined this project as an instructor last year, I realized the neglect villagers faced. There is no cellular network here, no mode of public transport for residents to connect with nearby cities, and no access to information on reform and governance. With incomplete information, villagers live in self-constructed myths.”
Covering all areas of livelihood, the Parivartan project also works on women’s health, especially educating mothers-to-be on the government facilities they are entitled to. The instructor busted the myth villagers had about prenatal vaccinations. They believed getting injections from hospitals (as promoted by the government for improved health of pregnant women) caused the birth of a girl child. Villagers never took their newborns for compulsory vaccinations, fearing post-vaccine illness. Rinku shares she had a hard time tackling such misconceptions. “It’s been one-and-a-half years working with the village community here. I have seen the transformation happening. Girls are more confident and vocal about their opinions, unlike the previous scenario. They have a purpose now,” she adds.
The fourth batch of Life Skills Education training has begun in all nine villages in Mahendragarh, Haryana, under Parivartan Pariyojana. The mission remains the same: tapping the potential and bringing women to the forefront in every phase of life.
(Jincy Chacko is communications associate at S M Sehgal Foundation)