Our community members live in the area 2km in radius from the GLC on the outskirts of Varanasi in Samne ghat.
Families that the Ganga Learning Centre cooperates with are local families with disadvantaged background in terms of education, financial security, and gender equality. This affects their overall health and well-being.
Our team targets families that need support and offers them an oportunity to gain free education for their children, skill training, life-long education for adults, and dignified and fair jobs. We target families with mostly young children who need help to get enrolled in public education system.
Number of children whose education we support either through direct teaching at the Centre, tutoring, scholarships, financial support though their mother’s empoloymet, or family counsiling is 84. At the moment we provide training and employment for 28 women.
Some of the biggest challenges in the broader community are domestic violence, lack of value in education, drinking and gambeling amongst men, lack of freedom of expression, and mobility. Families proritize male children so we promote education amongst girls.
We run support circles and individual caunsiling for the ladies who face domesting violence. Experinece shows that the mere fact that they can go out of home and earn money brings them more leverage in their families. Sometimes that is well received and appreciated, but sometimes it’s challenged with opression. Our team provides a safe enviromnet to assess every situation and see how we can help. Our head manager Sunita often visits homes of the families that need counsiling and offers mediation to support women to get permission to work and study at the centre.
When the women are not isolated they gain power as a group and that helps them voice their opinion and take a part in decision making in ther families.
Above 90% of the women in our community have never even been to the town area in Varanasi (4 km far from their home) before they came to the GLC. They are not allowed to go anywhere alone, without being accompained by husband or parents. Their social class doesn’t promote women’s mobility and thus they have never been allowed to get to know the city they live in. Many of them dream about waliking freely along the ghats of Varanasi.
None of the women have ever traveled to another city except to the villages they or their in-laws originate from.
Most of the families we cooperate with belong to low cast. It is true that India promotes equality amongs casts but in the rural areas of Varanasi old traits of cast repression still play a big role. Even if not financially, they certainly do socially. Low caste woman is not supposed to go out in public or work.
Being a Woman
When asked about how it is to be a woman all the ladies had the same answer: “It’s hard.” All of them have experienced the same treatment as they were passing through their adolesence. Their parents suddenly started telling them that they need to stay at home and do not socilize. They were kept “pure” for their marriage and this meant that they had no freedom to go to school or explore life outside their homes. Only 40% percent of women, including the teachers and staff at the centre, went to school – 7.5% went to university,15% went to high school, 8% up to the 8th grade of primary school, 7.5% up to the 5th grade of primary school, and 60% of all women were not allowed to attend school at all and are illiterate.
When asked what they would like to be doing if there were no restrictions there was silence and then the ladies said that they have never though about it before. A few women said that they enjoy being seamstersses and two added that they would like to become a teacher or a fashion designer. All responses where career oriented and it was hard for them to imagine being free to think about themselves free from social codes of conduct and imposed boundaries.
To learn more about the community background and GLC’s impact, please read GLC Family Education Report 2012 – 2015.