Empowerment

Around the World in 10 Kilometres

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Last month, AWAG took part in the Global Giving Winter Challenge, with the aim of raising £2500 in a space of 5 weeks from over 50 individual donors. The challenge involved raising money for one project, for which AWAG chose phase II of our previously successful sanitary and menstrual health project. More information can be found on our project page:

http://www.globalgiving.co.uk/projects/training-130-women-youth-health-leaders-in-gujarat/

In order to tackle this challenge, AWAG decided to host an ‘Around the World in 10 Kilometres’ run, where our AWAG’s supporters across the globe were given the opportunity to take part in a sponsored 10 kilometre run for the campaign.

We had participants running in various cities, including London, Kent, Liverpool, Hong Kong, Munich, Ireland and Sydney.

The campaign was a huge success and we raised a whopping £5000 for AWAG. This meant not only gaining permanent affiliation with Global Giving and passing their Winter Challenge, but winning a bonus prize of £500 for having the most donors of all the NGO’s who took part in the challenge.

AWAG would like to say a huge thank you to all runners, donors and supporters who helped us in this campaign. We couldn’t have done it without you!

 

 

 

You are not alone

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Health Organisation (2011) reported India as the most depressed nation. Despite this negative honour, mental health is still highly stigmatised in Indian society. To address this under-emphasised issue, AWAG has undertaken a ‘Mental health project for Women and Adolescents’ since 2008 wherein underprivileged women and children can benefit from free expert counselling.

Nearly every one, at some point of time has been through a dark phase in life; a phase where you feel worthless and a sense of failure engulf you. You are unable to enjoy happiness and have lost complete motivation for life. You feel sad over nothing and it kills to figure out the reason for your sadness. When you try to express this empty feeling to people around you, you are either labelled a ‘drama queen’ or asked to ‘man-up’!

In today’s volatile personal and professional relationships, conscious effort is needed to maintain emotional resilience. Depression affects so many people that it is now called the common cold of mental disorder. Here are 5 low cost ways to deal with depression without medication:

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1) Agony aunts – When you have things bothering you, which are uncomfortable to discuss with family, turn to your best friend. Talk to a person who is unlikely to judge you and you’ll be surprised to know he/she will go out of their way to help you cope up with it!

2) Zen is the word – Studies have found yoga, Tai-chi and qigong to be beneficial in managing depression and relaxing your emptiness. A consistent aerobic exercise program for 4 months is beneficial in combating depression.

3) Turn to hobbies – In a fast paced world, we often forget the importance of having a hobby. Activities like painting, reading and sports aid in fighting isolation and obsessive thinking. And ladies, yes, retail therapy included.

4) Do something different – if you are a ‘reading- book’ kind of a person, try to join a sports club; if you are a ‘sports person’, try to bake a cake. Trying something new alters the level of dopamine in brain which is the hormone associated with pleasure, enjoyment and learning!

5) Pet an animal – Studies have shown that pets have a positive impact on our behaviour. The unconditional love and affection they offer, effect on our endorphins and serotonin thereby relieving stress.

6) Solo vacations – Getting away alone could give you time to evaluate yourself about the things you are doing right and wrong. Admiring Mother Nature (country-side) could give you a chance to break from your busy city life and contemplate on life. It can also be a great way to meet new people and analyse their way of life. Not that it will make you forget your trauma, but you will gain the potential to deal with it in a positive way.

7) Volunteer – Volunteering for a cause you are passionate about could be one of the ways to distract your mind. Knowing that you have made a positive difference by lending a hand to someone in genuine need could help you feel better about yourself and get a good night’s sleep.

If you would like to volunteer for AWAG, please send us your resume and cover letter to info@awagindia.org.

Having followed some of this and still have a sense of depression most of the time, please do not hesitate to visit a counselling centre. We need to open up about mental health.

 

 

Happy to Bleed

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AWAG has initiated a ‘health and hygiene project’ in the villages of Radhanpur, Gujarat to raise awareness on reproductive and menstrual health along with entrepreneurial training for marketing of sanitary pads and other hygiene products.

Coming from a big city, I have never much pondered upon menstruation being a taboo for most of the Indian women. It came to me as a surprise when I became a part of AWAG and learnt about the various activities that the organisation conducts at the village level with grass root women.

Can you imagine unhygienic materials being used instead of sanitary napkins during menstruation? Unfortunately, It’s the reality of more than 8 out of 10 Indian women during menstruation. A research study conducted by AC Nielsen and Plan India survey (2011) revealed that only 12% of menstruating Indian women use sanitary napkins.  A shocking 88% of total population rely on traditional practises such as using old fabrics, sand, saw dust, dry leaves and newspapers during periods.  Not to ignore the number of vaginal infections these cultural practises lead to, making women susceptible to a number of diseases such as cancer of cervix, urinary tract infection and removal of the uterus.

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In addition, there are a number of cultural myths being followed by menstruating women in India. Here are some of the myths tagged along with menstruation:

1) Period blood kills crops and rusts iron – It is believed that menstrual blood contains a poison called ‘menotoxins’ which kills the crops. No, it is just shredding of your uterine walls made up of one’s own blood.

2) Sex on your period causes deformed babies – It is possible to get pregnant on your period days but no evidence to support deformed babies. It could be possible that it was made up to avoid stains on the sheets.

3) You can’t go swimming during periods – It is believed that swimming increases cramps. Not true, water has a pain relieving property which might actually help women with the menstrual cramps.

4) Slipping some of the menstrual blood into a man’s food or drink will cause him to madly fall in love with you – a common myth amongst Asian and African cultures. Not true again. The possibility of him running away from you is for sure though!

5) Other people can tell that you have your period – no, not unless you stain your clothes and people can see! 23% of Indian girls skip school at least 5 days every month during menstrual season as they consider it a curse.

Such cultural myths around menstruation give women a sense of being impure and inferior during that time of the month. Taboos have a negative impact on a women’s emotional state and lifestyle practises causing detrimental effects on health. Poor protection and limited knowledge of puberty and reproductive health stigmatise the phenomenon.

Why is there such a taboo to guide women on naturally occurring changes during puberty? Why is it still considered a ‘hush hush’ affair when it happens every time of the month?

Raising awareness is extremely important to break these traditional myths. Awareness induces confidence in women to openly talk and clarify doubts around it rather than blindly following the traditional practices.  AWAG’s ‘health and hygiene’ program aims to shed light on this burning issue. To learn more about this project and make a donation, please follow the link – http://www.globalgiving.co.uk/projects/training-130-women-youth-health-leaders-in-gujarat/

I am happy to support this incredible cause and you should do it too!

Reference –

Sengupta, H (2014) Recasting India: How entrepreneurship is revolutionizing the world’s largest democracy. 

 

CAG report – 2015

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On April 16th, AWAG hosted a discussion on the CAG report and the new startling facts about circumstances of women and children in Gujarat.

The discussion involved leading experts including Ami Yagnik (activist and high court lawyer), Suresh Mehta (Economist and former Chief Minister of Gujarat) and Professor Rohit Shukla.

Read more here about what the outcomes of the report were, and what was discussed in the session.

Rape: A Common Reality

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As well as hosting a range of regular activities for its local projects, AWAG also offers external help to women who have suffered traumatic and violent experiences.

Last month, a six-year-old girl was raped in Ahmedabad. A four-foot iron rod was used in the process and as a result she was relieved from the use of many of her internal organs. The AWAG team visited the young girl in hospital, offering support to her family. Traumatised by the incident, the girl now feels overwhelmingly tense if approached by any male members, including male doctors and nurses. She was in brutal pain, both physically and mentally.

Rape is still a common reality in India and should not be dismissed lightly. It occurs amongst the backdrop of a society that is fundamentally underpinned by structures of patriarchy, and an evident power imbalance between women and men. This girl was one out of many helpless women and children who are raped daily in India.

For a long-term change in breaking such patriarchal structures and in order to stop rape as a weapon of gender discrimination, empowerment is essential. Education and awareness for women’s rights and the presence of this in policy will allow for such structural changes. Here at AWAG, we are fighting for this change, and working towards a better India in which this young girl could be playing freely today.