Sunday, March 9, 2008

Project 9 - Release A Black Balloon

Objective - Persuade your audience to adopt your opinion or take an action

There was once a man who sold balloons to keep hunger from the door - balloons of all shapes and colours - red, green, orange and blue. Whenever business was slow, he would release a helium-filled balloon into the sky to attract children and his sales would go up again. One day he felt someone tugging at his shirt. He turned around to see a small dark girl who asked, "If you release a black balloon, would that also fly?" At this the man said, "My child, it is not the colour of the balloon, it is what is inside that makes it go up."

How many of us here are filling such dark balloons and letting them fly? How many of us here are allowing such dark horses a chance to even run the race, let alone win it? How many of us here...are doing our bit?

We usually discuss the state of the nation as we sit on the sprawling sofas sipping our coffee or wine in our living rooms. Why? Because it affects us. We always end up blaming the government, the bureaucracy and flawed policies. But, remember that the country whose President propounded, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" is today one of the most powerful nations on Earth. So what can WE do for our country? What can we do in keeping with Mahatma Gandhi’s call to action, "Be the change you want to see"?

On the occasion of Women’s Day and having declared that Women Rule The World, we can do one simple thing - sponsor an underprivileged girl child’s education.

Successful education of the girl child is an effective mechanism to break the inter-generational cycle of poverty, myths, social norms and social evils. Research conducted in developing countries has demonstrated that a literate female population is linked to reduction in population growth rates. Even a minimally educated woman understands the importance of savings, makes her whole family more socially aware, realizes how having more children can be a strain on the resources, can be apprised of how diseases like AIDS spread and how she can shield herself thereby reducing one carrier, etc. Now, multiply that 1 by thousands of underprivileged women and consider what impact it will have on statistics.

At this point, let me tell you about the Nanhi Kali project of the K.C. Mahindra Education Trust wherein underprivileged girls from a wide gamut of backgrounds are offered a sponsorship for their education. The idea is to enroll as many girls in schools as possible and also to ensure that the exisitng enrollments are retained because although the enrollment rates for girls in Indian schools have improved of late, the drop out rates are still very high averaging at around 60% and the reasons for giving up on education are sometimes non-issues like not being able to afford uniforms. It costs less than or equal to Rs. 200 a month on your part depending on the standard the girls study in to keep them in school...to sponsor a girl’s education.

Once you send the money to Nanhi Kali, they seek a girl who needs the sponsorship and send you a photograph and other details about the chosen girl child. Progress reports about her academic performance are regularly sent to you. The child herself is made aware that there is a gaurdian angel for her and she may send you cards and drawings that she has made off and on. So there is complete transparency and no bureaucratic hassles. You can visit nanhikali.org for comprehensive information and getting in touch with them.

There are many other projects like Amitasha by the Amity Humanity Foundation etc. which function on a similar model.

Dr. S. Radhakrishnan had said, "Educate a man and you educate an individual. Educate a woman and you educate a family". Let us keep in mind that in the patriarchal society that ours is, it is still the lady of the house who has the most influence on the family, which is why for this generation I am stressing on the girl child. It will take just one generation of girls to change the times. And then thousands of these girls empowered by you will grow up to become women who will break the cycle, whose families will be less prone to abuse and exploitation due to their awareness, who will plan their families and thereby impact population figures, who will see that their children receive education and do not suffer like the previous generations thus bringing down the petty crime rate and this decimation in population and dilation in employable people will improve the employment scenario. With one arrow you will shoot so many birds - population, poverty, unemployment. Changing the status quo and leaving our children a happier, prosperous, peaceful and safe country to live in is not as daunting as we make it out to be. You will continue to live in that better India even long after you’re gone through a woman’s grateful memories...her whole lineage owing their emancipation to you.

All you need to do is spread the word extensively since we need to impact thousands of girl’s lives and do a simple task - release a black balloon...sponsor a girl child’s education today!

1 comment:

lakshmi said...

A visit to giveindia.org will tell people about many organizations that are trying hard to educate underpriveleged girls in India, and they have many options where people can sponsor even as low as a month's education. Unfortunately people are willing to spend on"pink chaddis" for women liberation but not this.