Building literary bridges to empowerment

The library, while not directly under the ambit of the programme, is undertaken by the NGO to reinforce the ideas and concepts taught to the students.
Building literary bridges to empowerment

CHENNAI: If there are infinite parallel universes, I’d like to be in one created by books. Thankfully, we can accomplish that with a good book and some imagination, opening proverbial doors to knowledge and companionship. With this idea and a plan to empower students of nine tribal schools in Kallakurichi, city-based NGO AWARE India is collecting resources to build a Gender Library.

The goal is to address all forms of gender-based violence. “Most children, especially those who are vulnerable and feel neglected by society due to intersectional issues, find books to be a good partner. The hope is for them to get exposed to the content that they are not taught in school or that is not even spoken of until they complete their school education. Under the umbrella of the Safe Space Club, we want this to be a place where a child feels safe exploring and understanding themselves,” explains Sandhiyan Thilagavathy, First Volunteer, AWARE India.

Changing attitudes
The concept emerged as a need amid their ongoing 25-week programme at the schools, tackling varied subjects such as peer pressure, body positivity, gender sensitivity, sexual health, mental health and more with students of class nine. “The district administration of Kallakurichi has had an issue of addressing school dropouts. With girls, it has to do with child marriage and exposure to gender based violence. With boys, there is more addiction to drugs. While these schools are residential and offer free and compulsory education, students often don’t return when they go home for Pongal or Diwali.

So, the administration wanted to run this programme and also include life skills and livelihood options,” Sandhiyan explains.

The library, while not directly under the ambit of the programme, is undertaken by the NGO to reinforce the ideas and concepts taught to the students. “We want to break their conditioning and change that attitude. We identify volunteers within the community and schools and through them, want to engage students with reading and storytelling sessions,” says Sandhiyan.

While they know of a rich content trove in English, there are fewer options in Tamil, he adds. The NGO is currently narrating books in the local language and utilising other creative methods to impart knowledge, and are also in the process of translating some material.

Community dialogues
This library will also serve the purpose of providing information to teachers who will operate it. “They are also in need of so much content in these areas that they are looking forward to learn through books. We want to sustain the impact that we have. So that once we come out of the school, at least the library would be functional with the librarians and the peer leaders that we create, and we could monitor whatever things that we have done in those five months,” he concludes. If the concept sees success here, the NGO looks forward to taking the same further.

Refer books about sex education, peer pressure, sexuality, any form of gender violence and/or healthy/unhealthy relationships that you may have read and will be relevant in addressing the topics.
Donate studied and used books, arts and crafts, furniture, and/or stationery for the setup.
Choose to donate a book on the Amazon and Flipkart wishlists.

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The New Indian Express