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Over the past fifteen years Society for People's Awareness (SPAN) has evolved through its concern and multifaceted involvement with issues like child development, women’s empowerment, livelihood concerns of marginal sections, especially unorganized labor and integrated rural development through natural resource management. SPAN believes that unless the overall well being of children and women are seriously addressed in real terms no lasting social change can be made. The Project holder of SPAN, Mr. Prabir Basu is a graduate from Calcutta University and since his college days has been engaged in the social sector. His varied experience of more than 20 years in this sector has helped him to gain insight into the issues affecting rural as well urban development. For more than 10 years he had been associated with other organizations where he realized that the interventions were making the poor more dependent. He thus realized the importance of people’s participation for making development sustainable and started SPAN in 1989 with like minded friends.
The intervention area covers seven wards of the Kamarhati municipality. The area is densely populated where the habitations are mainly slum and squatter colonies. The civic amenities for the people of this area are completely missing. Most of the families live in small dingy, poorly ventilated and rented houses. Majority of the population in the operational area belong to the muslim community. Among the Hindu’s, 30% are Bengali speaking and others are migrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh who speak Hindi. The economically oppressed classes are mostly deprived in terms of shelter, health, education, social security and accessing the state system. Among the adult population of the operational area, only 30% have voting rights. Absence of their language and culture in the vital areas of life and livelihood and branding of the muslim community as aggressive and terrorist in general, has influenced their feelings of marginalization.
The status of child rights is dismal – drop out rate is as high as 50% at the secondary level and 15% at the primary level. 30% child deliveries are non-institutional. ICDS centers covers about 1000 children (3-6 yrs), 10% of the total child population. 45% children do not have birth registration. The two Jute Mills of Kamarhati and Agarpara, that provide the economic lifeline of the area, have been downsized significantly over the past few years. No further creation of employment opportunity in this sector has forced the population to opt for other occupations, mostly in the unorganized sector. Children are engaged in the unorganized sector [blade making, pen refilling, garage works, zari, jute and plastic bags making] as well. Few Government schemes like SJSRY (Swarna Jayanti Sahari Rojgar Yojona) and vocational training are run by the Municipality to increase the income and skills of the BPL population but these schemes fail to reach the needy because of the defective and faulty BPL lists and the ineffective planning and implementation of the same. In this context, SPAN aims to build a society which is socially just.
- Capacitating people to gain and exercise human and democratic rights.
- Enhancing people’s participation in democratic institutions.
- Facilitate environmental protection and regeneration.
SPAN is working in an area which is a burning example of urban deprivation and ineffective urban governance. There is hardly any organization working on issues related to the 74th amendment. SPAN is also attempting to mobilise the community for active participation in LSG. During the last two years, SPAN has been able to place itself as a people’s organization and was able to make the community understand the role of the government in the area of health and education.
Major achievements include :
- 7 health groups were formed, 1 in each ward with 35 youth and women members.
- 35 women were identified and trained by SPAN on mother and child health, communicable diseases (which are prevalent in the area) to engage them in community sensitization.
- 103 students who were in Participatory Learning Centers (PLC) and recreational centers (RC) last year were enrolled in Govt School and 100% retention was ensured. Another 107 students were enrolled after the campaign.
- 50 youth were identified from the community to be trained as ‘Education Volunteers”.
- In one of the reference wards, a local club came forward to provide space for conducting the bridge course and remedial coaching centre. 10 centers (5 each) were functional through 2006 and 4 more centers were introduced in 2007 to cover all the 7 reference wards.
- Childrens groups were formed by selecting children from the centers and the schools.
SPAN is one of the few organizations with expertise on work with rural and urban areas. The organization’s intervention makes an attempt to address the problems of urban slums and the inactiveness of the urban local self government institutions. The strategy of forming a strong community forum and strengthening the capacity of the local service providers and local self governments to jointly highlight key aspects of the area in a larger forum and thereby address child rights seems rational.
- Improving health status of the children through awareness generation in the community and advocacy with the government.
- 1 ICDS centre will be developed as a model centre.
- School enrolment drive- all out of school children of ward number 1 to 7 who are 6-7 years old will be enrolled in local Govt schools.
- Registration of out of school children and identification of problems regarding their school admission (if any) through door to door survey would be carried out. High school students (class VIII & IX) will be selected to motivate out of school children to be enrolled.
- Running Bridge course – for coverage of out-of-school or drop-out children.
- Remedial coaching for potential dropouts of primary schools.
- Street plays on the issue of child labor highlighting the legal prohibition and rehabilitation measures.
- Identification of children with disability, training on the issue of physically and mentally challenged children; preparation of individual case studies; institutional linkages for certificates and care.
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