For a better tomorrow

For a better tomorrow

Visthar, a civil society organisation that facilitates community-based advocacy, has initiated several efforts to ensure social justice for common people, particularly the underprivileged. Founded in 1989 by David Selvaraj in Bengaluru, the organisation works in different parts of Karnataka.

One such project called Bandhavi is underway in Koppal. Bandhavi was initiated in Bengaluru in 2005 to address the issues of gender discrimination and social exclusion. The organisation realised that though the Devadasi system was outlawed in 1988, it was still being practised in many parts of North Karnataka. So, the project aimed to create better opportunities for the girl children of Devadasis.

The project works in collaboration with civil society organisations, community-based organisations and government departments. Some of the organisations that have associated with the project as part of its multi-stakeholder approach are Navajeevana Mahila Okkuta in Raichur, Antyodaya organisation in Bagalkot, Aralu organisation in Bidar, Vimukti organisation in Chitradurga, Sakhi of Hospet and Sabala organisation in Adoni.

Access to essential needs
Visthar’s ability to tackle different issues, after being part of various social movements like Narmada Bachao Andolan, Dalit movements and women’s movements, helped it address this issue more effectively.

Initially, they identified girls and women who were at risk and took them into the organisation’s fold.
Kindernothilfe, a civil society organisation based in Germany, has been supporting since the organisation began. Initially, they started a Home in Mangalore village of Yelburga taluk with 25 girls. Though the project was coordinated from Bengaluru in the initial years, it was shifted completely to Koppal in 2008.

“Initially, the plan was to start a Home in Bengaluru. In fact, we were in two minds to open an office in Koppal as we already had an organisational set-up in Bengaluru. But as the parents were hesitant to send their children that far, we decided to shift here,” explains V Asha, coordinator of Visthar.

The objectives of Bandhavi includes rescuing and protecting women from this regressive practice, and ensuring that these children get access to residential care, balanced and nutritional food, healthcare, and lessons on gender equality, social awareness and life skills. Currently, the organisation has given shelter to over 100 children. Apart from the girl children of Devadasis, girl children who are victims of domestic violence, children of migrating families and those from socially- and economically-disadvantaged sections are the residents of this Home.

Bandhavi conducts classes till fifth standard. After that, the children pursue their education in nearby government schools. Run entirely by donors, Bandhavi doesn’t take any fee from these kids. To ensure community participation and make the parents feel responsible, Bandhavi plans to charge a nominal fee from the next academic year. While the fee would be Rs 100 per month, parents can pay it in kind by distributing food or sharing grains and vegetables with the organisation.

Apart from enabling children through information and knowledge, the organisation works to create a favourable environment in their houses. In this regard, Bandhavi conducts training for the mothers of these children. “All the kids here are from the disadvantaged sections of the society. If both the mother and daughter get the right orientation, the situation of the family definitely improves,” opines Asha.

“Now I have the confidence that I can change the world for better. We have to achieve equality and the mainstream should embrace those who are sidelined. I have never felt that it is a hostel. I consider it as my home. I spend time here even during holidays,” says Durga, a resident of this Home. Akshaya, who joined here in 2005, has completed her diploma in Social Work and works with the organisation. Their confidence and hope are evident when we talk to the residents here. 

Child advocacy
Child Labour Free Zone, an initiative of Visthar-Bandhavi, works towards identifying cases of child labour with the help of various social organisations and bring those kids to the mainstream.

This year, the project aims to make 15 villages child labour free. In association with an organisation, they are also implementing Child Rights Education Advocacy project.

Some of the initiatives of Visthar-Bandhavi include Holistic Child Care and Empowerment, Samagra Shikshana Shale (a bridge school for children to cope with mainstream education), Community based Child Empowerment (the project aims to ensure that children enjoy their rights) and Visthar Community College.  The college offers a diploma in Theatre Arts, which is accredited by Hampi Kannada University.

While a lush green campus with flower and vegetable garden creates a soothing environment, happy faces engaged in different activities reflect the mood in the Home. For details, contact 8970433609 or visit www.visthar.org.

(Translated by AP)

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