The Fatima Grihini Girls Centres in the North Eastern Indian state of Assam offer challenging programmes for the education of girls from deprived backgrounds. The asim of the programmes is to lift the youngsters out of their poverty and give them a hopeful perspective for the future.
Fr Thaddy de Deckere mhm who is instrumental in providing sponsorship for these programme forwarded this report sent to him by Sr Domitilla:
Thirty of the Grihini Girls, who had joined Fatima Grihini Centre at Rangia (20) and Agartala (10) completed their training in the second week of April 2017.
All of the 30 Grihini Girls who joined the Programme were from the poor economic background and their parents intended to get their daughters to have a bright prospect in the future. The parents mentioned to us that they have heard about this programme from many and so they would like these their daughters to learn this trade so as to earn their own livelihood and get income for the family. They also expressed that besides they would want their daughters to become good and mature women before they get settled in marriage. They also had about the moral instruction and prayerful atmosphere experienced in this Centre is well appreciated by all.
During this semester too, the response of the parents was very good and they were cooperative till the end when their wards completed the programme. They had their graduation day on 16th April 2017. Few of the parents came to take few girls before I left and they contributed little amount which was used by them for purchasing learning materials and for their toiletries etc.
During this period of second-half year too, the Grihinis attended Holy Mass every day. They performed their regular exercises such as (Morning prayer and Holy Mass, physical exercises, jogging (for about half an hour, their daily chorus, work-experience in the flower/vegetable garden etc. followed by their regular class hours every day to learn cutting, drafting, sewing, knitting etc from 9.00 a.m till 3.30 p.m. with half an hour break for lunch. In addition they helped in cleaning the surrounding which was in a mess due to the construction of Fatima Baalika Dayadhaam, a Mercy Home for the Girl-Children at-risk.
The regular moral instruction classes regularly, practice of prayer, choir practice, daily rosary followed by half an hour of adoration in all the three centers was a great help which also helped them to practice faith and grow as empowered women. They learnt to sing hymns and songs, to dance and to play and act, learn to read and write especially learn to sign their names etc.
Every one of them prepared the albums which were put up for Exhibition along with the stitched garments which they themselves had done. They did learn to do the paper cuttings first and then the cloth stitching etc. Thus at the end of their programme, the Grihini students have gained confidence by going through these exercises and getting rid of the fear and nervousness in cutting the cloth. They had to draft and prepare nearly 30-40 patterns to get ready their albums. The Classes on sex and value based education; sacredness of marriage and family, responsible parenthood, healthy diet, making use of available resources in the village were regularly conducted during this term too.
This year out of 30 Grihini Students, 10 from Rangia and 2 from Agartala Centre appeared for USHA International Exam on 25th February 2017. Their results are awaited. For rest of these Girls’ the internal exam was conducted on 30th March 2017. All of them did fairly well. Each one of them was awarded with a Diploma certificates by Sr. Ventura our Regional Superior on Saturday the 23rd April 2017, their graduation Day.
As usual when these girls when they arrived our Training Centers they appeared at first so timid, shy, and weak. The change came leaps and bounds once they started the programme and togetherness and at the end of the year we can saw the visible change taking place. i.e. smart-looking, neat-tidy confident, increase of faith and initiatives taken so promptly in conducting any programme or prayer service, taking responsibility to conduct programmes. On their graduation day they themselves managed it all.
The difficulties that we encountered during this second half were:
- Few of the girls who belonged to the other faiths (and not Catholics) found it difficult to adjust and participate fully during the prayer time etc. attending all the exercises though.
- These non-catholic girls were not taking part wholeheartedly in prayer service.
- Only the Adivasi girls could follow Hindi language. Since all could not communicate in Hindi, we had to take a lot of trouble to teach them to read and write and sign their names. Because very few of them did their initial schooling. This is their first exposure to a new environment. So hopefully they will do remarkable progress in the future after they are encounter varied exposures.
- Due to their illiteracy, we found it very difficult to make them understand and grasp things. But with the help of the local Teachers and our constant guidance and supervision, they at the year – end showed so much of improvement and we can see the change in almost all of them. On their graduation day all of them took part in expressing their experience.
The challenges posed before the Grihini Girls are:
- Most of them are dependent upon their parents, relatives and their neighbors for financial help for their pocket money, day to day toiletries etc.
- Even for their up and down travel from their villages to Fatima Grihini Centre, they have to wait for the arrangement to be done by their parents. So, we cannot send them at once as soon as they finish their year-long programme. We allowed them to stay till their family members come and take them as per their convenience.
- As soon as they go home starting of the trade to earn their livelihood, either by purchasing a sewing machine or make an agreement to work in any other Tailors’ shop in the vicinity of the village.
- We envisaged that these girls when they return to their homes will earn their daily living by putting up a little shop or join in a tailoring shop to continue the trade and become responsible women in their homes, living a dignified life like the others who trained themselves and passed out from our Centers are doing all these years.
At the closure of their programme we found out how many of them wanted to go to Kerala to join the KITEX Garments factory. Nearly 10 of them signed up for it before they left home promising that all will come prepared, after they collect and get the required documents.