After getting a little lost, I nervously waited in front of the landmark given to me and worried about what was expected of me. But soon enough two little girls came to pick me up and I could swear I’d seen them somewhere, but then again, probably not. Khushboo and Fatima effortlessly put me at ease as one explained directions and the other giggled at my pathetic jokes. And just like that, we were friends. On entering the classroom, I was welcomed by a room full of familiar faces. Really, where had I seen them before? And then I understood. The website. [www.protsahan.co.in] The first thing I learnt about Protsahan is that unlike other such organizations, it wasn’t far-removed from the people it worked with. Here, every child was a celebrity enough to be featured on their website. The logic of working with a small number was to positively affect the lives of children in the long run as opposed to a token donation or a single workshop that left them less than empowered. As Sonal (Founder CEO at Protsahan) put it, the aim was to make each of them a ‘superstar’.
It was obvious that my arrival had created a flurry in class (Hey, so maybe I’m a celebrity too?). ‘What was her name again?’ And then I received a chit – Lovebisti. Yup, definitely the best version so far, gonna keep that one. The actual discussion in class however, was a more serious one – problems faced by women. I wondered how much of the issue 12 year old girls could understand, but my brain was forced to shut up, as they not only recognized the various issues but even narrated personal incidents. I realized that these were not average, cocooned children and so distancing them from uncomfortable discussions was incorrect. Rather what was required was a frank conversation so that they are better equipped to deal with issues like sexual abuse, female foeticide and child marriage, if ever confronted by them. Therefore, they understood good touch-bad touch and even knew how to file an FIR. Later I realised, most of Protsahan’s fabulous volunteers came through the twitter brigade. I believe this is fascinating…using a social media site to talk about a issue #Protsahan works on each day and each night and involves young people across #Delhi and #India with complete transparency, with its Founder tweeting live updates and everyday happenings, sometimes even how the basic donations are spent and even a call for more volunteers for their children. It is through this medium that a brilliant array of volunteering teams is created at Protsahan and the young children and girls get maximum exposure to hundreds of learning tools from a basket of such different volunteers from all walks of life!
— Sonal Kapoor (@ArtForCause) June 8, 2014
So even though its a small charity training home which provides a safe learning space for young and little girls to bloom beautifully into dignified adolescence its everyday work is fabulously transparent on Twitter and Facebook! Here is another example after my class!
Our beautiful @NavishtiDas didi is teaching us 'The Art of Acceptance' Today she taught us: Different is not bad, it is only different!
— Protsahan India Foundation (@NGOProtsahan) June 8, 2014
Protsahan’s approach of using art to combat women’s and children’s issues however is what truly sets them apart. This is visible in the daily routine of meditating to music, creative storytelling and workshops on photography and art. This allows the children to creatively express their grouses, opinions and solutions to problems that are all around them, and become the agents of their own emancipation. The most impressive example of this is the short film on open defecation, which was fully scripted and acted in by the children, called ‘Cleanliness is Godliness’ : See it on Youtube!
The drops of paint on the floor, the ‘filmmaker’ badge pinned to the board and the Madhubani bookmark given to me, are evidence of Protsahan’s spirit of encouraging expression and empowerment through art. It was the manifestation of their aim to remove the prefix of ‘at risk’ to their identity, and replace it with photographer, artist and filmmaker.
Navishti [aka Lovebisti :)]
Changemaker Intern @Protsahan