A NEW PROJECT PARTNER Nishtha was recommended to BODHI Australia by Suddhaka, of the Karuna Trust, based in London, England as an organisation BODHI Australia might want to consider forging a working partnership with.
The BODHI Australia Executive Committee reached the decision (in early 2023) to support Nishtha after several video conferences, including with Akashamitra (from the Karuna Trust), who visits them regularly. Nishtha has FCRA status.
BODHI Australia has long recognised the systemic, political, economic and social disadvantages experienced by girls and women across the world; a project therefore with Nishtha, with a focus on the empowerment of girls and young women was well within BODHI Australia's mandate to improve the socioeconomic well being of girls and young women in developing countries.
NISHTHA Established in 1975 "Nishtha" meaning "dedication" (in Bengali) is a non-government organisation founded by women, for women. Its focus is largely centered on the empowerment of women by promoting equal opportunity, equal rights, and equal dignity for girls and women.
Nishtha strives to usher in a worldfree ofdiscrimination on the basis of sex, class, caste, creed, religion or colour.Nishtha works from a set of values that guide their policy and practice. These values are based on gender equity, child protection, human rights and the right to financial independence forall girls and women. Nishtha works across caste; their programmes reach out to girls and young women in the lower castes, Dalits and including “tribals”.
Nishtha presently works in more than 300 villages in 6 blocks in rural district near Kolkata.
ALOKITA (ENLIGHTENED) - A BODHI AUSTRALIA SUPPORTED INITIATIVE IN PARTNERSHIP WITH NISHTHA Supported by BODHI Australia, Nishtha proposes to provide educational support to some 200 girls and young women living in 14 very remote villages, across two blocks (7 villages in each block) of the South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal, Bishnupur. Due to the remoteness of the villages and a lack of resources, Nishtha has until now, been unable to do any out reach work in those villages. Nishtha Secretary Ms Mina Das has named the BODHI Australia supported project 'Alokita' meaning "enlightened".
As part of the programme Nishtha will provide support to the mothers of the school-aged girls and young women so that they can support their daughters to stay at school and complete their education. The girls and young women, and the girls and young women's mothers are supported to attend meetings at Nishtha head office or Nishtha sister office (whichever is closer).
To support their school attendance the girls and young women will over the course of 12 months each receive a monthly hygiene kit. These kits contain shampoo, toothpaste, soap and sanitary napkins; all considered important for continuity of education, establishing constructive peer relationships, building self esteem and retaining dignity.
The girls and young women participating in the programmes are each given their own bank account with a small monthly allowance. This helps to teach the girls and young women about money, money management and fiscal responsibility. The money needs to be accounted for and is to be used to support their education. No one other than the girls and young women themselves can access that account.
Nishtha employs five “lay” social workers, each of whom visits the communities and trouble shoots issues with families and the community, seeking to identify and solve any aspects that might prevent a girl or young woman from attending school.
BODHI Australia funds have been allocated for 5 social workers to receive “Exposure Training”. This training is so Nishtha social workers who are not social work trained but have undergraduate degrees can link in with other experienced social workers to gain additional knowledge and skills.
BODHI Australia funds have also been allocated to allow Nishtha to train 30 people to be leaders for the girls and young women and who can then act to further support them to complete their education. Nishtha will also train 30 mothers’ group leaders who will also provide support to the mothers of the school aged girls and young women.
Nishtha representatives have regular meetings with community stakeholders (quarterly or half yearly) in the towns where the girls and young women live and are educated. These stakeholders include school teachers, community leaders, and community decision makers. These meetings are facilitated to exchange information, provide updates, troubleshoot presenting issues, problem solve issues of concern and to educate about the need to and benefits of empowering and educating girls and young women.
The Indian Government mandates Nishtha to provide quarterly, half yearly and yearly demographic and attendance data on all the young women and girls and including their families who participate in a Nishtha programme.
At this stage the BODHI Australia Executive Committee are confident that Nishtha are worthy recipients of BODHI Australia’s donor-supplied funds; we agreed to fund Nishtha for a year with additional funding pending a review at the end of the first 12 months.
The South 24 Paraganas West Bengal educational program for young women and girls will be commencing 1 April 2023 and end 31 March 2024.
Members of the BODHI Australia Executive Committee plan a visit to Nishtha in early 2025.
The budget for our first year can be accessed in the file below. The total, for year 1, is about 1.4M rupees (A$26,500)