Newsletter 19th June, 2020

Standing by communities while protecting staff.

Breakthrough Trust went for a work from home model during the early days of the pandemic Covid- 19 in India. We allowed employees to work from home, strengthened our digital resources and tried to follow rules around safety and hygiene right from the beginning.

Considering now, more than ever, employees need to stay in touch and need the right information on the pandemic and associated events, regular webinars, web-based town halls and continuous support are provided to the remote workforce enabling them to be productive, respond to increased domestic demands and maintain emotional well-being.

Not only this, we realised how important it was to remain in contact with our communities during this period so that we do not renege on the work we have already done with the adolescents and the community stakeholders. The pandemic and lockdown brought unprecedented challenges before us. Our on ground work came to a standstill. We tried various ways of staying in touch given the lack of internet connections in the rural areas and the lack of access for women and girls to mobile phones. Here is what we have done till now:

Connecting with those adolescents, peer leaders and their families who have at least one mobile phone:

Initially our focus was ensuring their well-being, discussing the problems arising out of this lockdown and networking with other ngos and government machineries to facilitate processes so that essential supplies and facilities reach them. 

As a next step we tried to spread awareness on present challenges and guide adolescents on how they could well utilise this time by focusing on the safety measures and precautions being advised by the government as well as being alert on issues of family violence that might happen during the lockdown. Our peer leaders responded to this greatly and they also acted on their own taking initiatives so that our messages of safety reached a wider community.

Online sessions of ‘Taaron Ki Toli’, our curriculum on gender equality:

As the final step in our interaction with adolescents during lockdown, we modified the content of parts of our curriculum on gender equality, Taaron ki Toli, so that a few chapters can be adapted to a 25-minute online session – through whatsapp groups. We chose those chapters that will help them deal with the uncertain and difficult times currently and in near future. A training of Community Developers was also done so they could conduct those online sessions. Now we are piloting delivery of Taaron Ki Toli sessions through whatsapp groups each comprising of not more than 15 adolescents. We have created 100 groups so far in Haryana and 62 in UP.

Parent Groups have emerged as one of the essential groups  that we could approach more easily during the lockdown. Fathers were easily available at home and we could organise conversations with them on early marriage and the need for girls to continue schooling.

Connecting with community stakeholders:

  1. Local governance mechanisms like the PRI and its members are one of the most important stakeholders for Breakthrough. We organised an online training of PRI members in UP and so far 99 Village Heads (Pradhans) across 6 districts have been oriented in a batch of 15 to 20 members on dealing with current issues arising out of the pandemic.  The training focused on reoriented about adolescent issues, especially considering that there is possibility of greater risk to safety and wellbeing of girls and women during the lockdown.
  2. The training session also focused on the Gram Panchayat (Village) Development Plans (GPDP) so that issues on safety and gender equality get incorporated by them in the new GPDP.
  3. The peer educators in several Gram Panchayats have persuaded heads of the villages for sanitisation of their respective villages and are doing continuous follow-ups to confirm the same.
  4. At several places in our intervention areas there was either a shortage of masks or these were being sold at very high price. Breakthrough’s district leads had circulated videos of mask making, using and cleaning after use, via Whatssapp with many peer educators and womens’ groups. As a result, women and adolescents took up the task of preparing masks for families and neighbours. Both women and adolescents have circulated the knowledge of using masks with their families and  community members, while distributing the masks.

The list of households in Breakthrough’s intervention areas that were in dire need of food and essential supplies was prepared by our Community Developers and through follow ups and telephonic networking with the supply side – government departments and other organizations providing relief, we reached out to families across 3050 villages in our project areas with the following support:

a. Helping families secure ration cards.
b. Helping families access sanitisers and masks.
c. Training of adolescent peer leaders on making masks and awareness materials like posters on the Covid19
d. Enabling donation of ration cards and donating ration cards for BPL families.
e. Investigating and busting fake news. This initiative will go a long way in checking biased opinions and hate sentiments being spread against particular communities as well as administration and police.
f.  We are also mobilising an existing network of trusted community volunteers and  updating  behavioural change messages, during Covid19 pandemic via Whatssapp.

Here’s a story of change from our project area:

Story of Aditya and his friends-
Even in the middle of the pandemic, Aditya and his friends continue to stand for gender equality and ensure essential services, like sanitary napkins, reach women in their communities!  In a world where menstruation is usually taboo, young boys have become local heroes

This is their story –

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