*Aafir in Korku means to fly
The National Colloquium Report, states that nearly 40% of adolescent girls aged 15-18 do not have access to any kind of schooling. About 65% of the girls who do not attend any educational institution are engaged in household work, are dependants, or engaged in begging. Adolescent girls are especially vulnerable to poor nutritional status, early marriage, and childbearing, affecting their ability to live empowered, healthy lives, which in turn affects the next generation. Adolescent girls and young women from tribal communities and living in remote villages experience marginalisation due to their multiple identities owing to the class, social location, gender and geography they belong to.
When we reached five tribal villages with the idea of starting village libraries through the young girls and women, we found that all the girls and women we had identified, do not have even basic literacy skills despite their education till 8th or 10th class. Onto further interaction, we got to know that the girls do not know the meaning of signature. They cannot even tell their age accurately. Some of them have never seen a Bank or Post office, the places of financial transactions. The secondary schools are away from village and majority of girls drop out at this point. We witness that there is no reading culture in tribal villages where we work. The lack of awareness and knowledge impact their life where they have no choice and opinion to make.
There are many reasons for this situation.
Libraries with relevant resources in the tribal villages can be information centers and space for learning for these girls and young women who have limited access to learning opportunities. Learning to read and reflect about their own lives will give girls and women an opportunity to understand their realities better and plan actions for changing their context for creating a gender equitable world for themselves.
These learning opportunities in the library will create a space for girls and young women to develop literacy skills, learn about their sexual, reproductive and overall health, become more aware about themselves and develop core life skills for navigating through their lives. Using a two-pronged approach of working with the school and community we plan to get participation of both school-going adolescent girls and the ones living in the villages but out of education for some reasons and young women in the age group of 10 to 24 years of age in the libraries.
Every month we organised full day meetings with the girls and would invite resource persons to facilitate sessions on topics like digital literacy for using computers and internet, financial literacy for understanding government schemes through banks, women’s rights, reproductive system and menstrual cycle and literacy development.
The community is tribal from Shahapur block of Thane district and Akot block of Akola district in Maharashtra.
The Right to Education Act, 2009 has made it mandatory for all schools to have libraries in the schools. In Maharashtra, one can see the library set up in the government aided schools but the books are made available to the middle school children and that too in a limited way. The government schools, which are maximum (67000) in Maharashtra do not have a setup of a library. The situation is such that a few books are locked in a classroom, very rarely available for children to read.
The collection of books is limited to Marathi language and does not have books in local language. The accessibility and borrowing of books is not a convenient process.
Building an inclusive space and collection of books for children in village and school. So that it is accessible to all everyday. Libraries create opportunities to strengthen a place to connect with self and others, support literacy and education, to create new ideas & thoughts.
We believe that reading does not mean just decoding the text, but it helps people to understand and engage with the world around them. At Unnati, we aim to create a culture of reading and thinking in the villages through school libraries.
The community is Tribal from Akot block of Akola district in Maharashtra. We have 2 centres- Wachu Anande and 2 School Intervention Program (SIP)- school libraries and 1 village library. Population from 8-10 age groups in centre and school (Zilla Parishad) and Population of young people from 11-25 age groups in village library.