About the Joint Women's Programme
Established in 1977 by Dr Jyotsana Chatterji, Joint Women’s Programme is a non-profit organisation with the vision of the empowerment of women and children in India. Their objectives include creating a society of equal partnership between women and men, ensuring access to education and protection for children and emphasizing grassroot women's organizations and community building in rural as well as urban areas. Their key activities centre around issue-based campaigning and networking among women’s groups and others at the local, regional, and national levels. Also, they reach out to the government, law enforcement agencies, civil society organizations, grassroots organizations, and concerned people, among others, to advance the cause of women and children’s concerns with an emphasis on education, economic empowerment, health and safety.
My Experiences: अनकही
The First Meeting:
I first met Dr Jyotsana Chatterji in the September of 2022, when I started looking for organizations to collaborate with working on the themes of gender equity and specifically, domestic violence. She told me she had never seen someone so young willing to work on topics so sensitive. I assured her that this was something I wanted to do, and that I will deliver my best for her. Thus began our collaboration, and I am so glad it did.
Mera Sahara Centre:
Over the winter of 2022, I visited JWP’s Mera Sahara Centre in the Nithari Village of Noida, Uttar Pradesh. There, more than 30 women and children spent their days: the women teaching, skill training and working on their projects; the children studying, colouring and learning. On my first day, I had the chance to meet and have a discussion on gender discrimination and domestic violence with several graduates and current students of JWP’s non-formal education programme. In them, I saw beacons of change—girls and boys who had seen the very worst of this world and yet still flourished into college students or workers with steady incomes. I visited their skill centres where they learnt how to sew and sell, IT labs where the children had essential digital skills, Kathak centre where young children danced their hearts out. I understood for the first time what JWP had offered them, not clothes and food and books, but a new chance at a life they had deserved from the beginning.
Another important task I carried out during my visits to the Mera Sahara Centre was to interview fifteen women that worked at JWP or resided in the village. What these women had in common were experiences of domestic violence. By speaking to them, I wanted to understand the causes, consequences and possible solutions for domestic violence. What I ended up getting was much more than that though. These were stories of women who had been systematically broken down, only to learn to gather up their strength and try to stand up again. Some did, and some still try. Regardless, they refuse to be labelled victims. Because survivors are what they want to be. Below are accounts of the same fifteen women, their names changed for protecting their privacy. My aim for these stories is to spread the same resurgence of hope, the same urge to get up and do something, to bring change in any way I can, I felt in my interview room, every day for two weeks.
Read on. Reflect.
My Experiences: Fundraising
During my discussions with Dr Chatterji and the on-field team at the Mera Sahara Centre, we identified that the first step towards my helping JWP would be to secure some funding for them. COVID-19 brought to a stop majority of JWP's funding, which they were obtaining from reputable private organisations, government schemes and international organisations such as UN Women and UNESCO. This caused some serious problems for the families associated with JWP. Although they utilised their savings to run their programs and provide resources to the underprivileged, their scale and depth of impact had limitations. Therefore, in order to secure some funding for JWP, I decided to make use of the Corporate-Social Responsibility (CSR) programs that allow private organisations to provide money to groups working towards social welfare.
Deciding which organisation to choose was the first step: we wanted a local company, that we could meet in person and explain to them why JWP deserves their funding. After research, we identified a Noida-based technology company who were yet to conduct its CSR for the financial year 2023, called Xoogle Global Technologies. In order to pitch our story to Xoogle, I used some of the extracts from अनकही. Those extracts allowed me to build an emotional connection with the work that JWP does, along with shedding light on the dire state of Domestic Violence. Apart from the stories, I used various other facts and statistics to convince Xoogle why JWP should receive their CSR funding. After several email communications, we met Xoogle's head of Human resources and Finance on 13th April 2023. With me, I had Vimla ji, who managed the on-field work at the Mera Sahara Centre, and Renu ji, who was one of the women I interviewed for अनकही. On April 22nd, we secured Rs. 80,000 as CSR funding from Xoogle, to JWP. This funding is now being used at JWP to continue their work for women and children through specialist workshops, expanding their non-formal education, increasing the resources being made available to the underprivileged, and with a special focus on Domestic Violence.