Reading a daily newspaper was simply not a part of the artisans’ lives. First of all, many of the women cannot read or write. Also, their busy lives do not allow much personal time to consider the news.
All this changed when the cooperatives started newspaper discussion groups. Once a week the artisans get together to focus on an eclectic mix of news articles chosen by one of their members. The women take turns combing through several newspapers to find articles that are important, thought-provoking or inspirational. The articles are read aloud and for two hours the women are encouraged to think beyond their daily lives and responsibilities as they discuss the stories, sharing their thoughts and expanding their knowledge.
Each group keeps a record of these discussions. The articles are glued into a book and may be referred to again if new sessions touch on similar issues. The group also records attendance to ensure that all the members of their group are benefitting from the activity.
This has proven to be one of the most popular programs ever!
Manju Gupta, Sahara
I look forward to our newspaper readings in our group. One recent article that really motivated me is the establishment of Benaras Hindu University (BHU), one of the oldest and well-known universities of India. It was just the vision of one man to establish an Indian Educational institution for youth in India. He went door to door and held community meetings across the country to collect funds. He brought people from all caste together for something universal: Education. Like him, we can also make a difference and being the leader of Darpan program I have an opportunity to work towards having better programs for my group members.
Razia Khan, Sahara
I cannot read or write but I am aware of so many things in the world. The women in my group read aloud the articles and we share what we feel. Learning new things in these meetings are helpful to have meaningful conversations with my children who are studying in English medium school. I especially ask the group to read articles related to education. During one such discussion, I had learned about online admission form and then took help from members and neighbors to fill the form and get admission for my daughter in an English medium school.
Sudha Shukla, Sahara
Sudha shared the article of a recent beauty pageant where the winner suffered from a rare condition alopecia where one loses their hair. ‘This article is really inspiring because on TV and movies they always promote beauty in a particular way, but beauty is not only about looking good. We need to believe in ourselves and work hard towards our goal and we will for sure be successful in whatever we chose to do in our lives. I want to give this same value to my children’
Mobina Rampurwala, Nirman
Mobina is the WhatsApp lady of the group. The newspaper meetings at Nirman are not restricted to reading news in print, they actively share views and opinions on news and messages they have received on their phone which are often shared by Mobina. ‘I like sharing all the information and positive messages I receive on my phone with my family, friends and my group members. The one story which really motivated both me and the group is of a young tribal girl who won a national award followed by a presentation in Japan for her innovative automatic toilet cleaner.
Kumkum Gupta, Nirman
When the activity first started, we use to mostly read articles about women and the problems that they face. During one of the meetings, our social worker Didi suggested that we should not stick to one kind of article, we should increase our knowledge and understanding by this activity. Since then I have learned so much, we read news about new innovations, laws and the different schemes that we are beneficial for us.
We read about an initiative where leftover food was being collected and distributed among the needy. I feel all of us should do the same.