Nav Shrishti puts schoolgirls on track.
September 2001: Reena Banerjee is the project head at Nav Shrishti, a small NGO that works towards empowerment and education of women in the largely Muslim localities of Neb Serai and Nangloi. The project is supported by Child Relief and You. Reena decided to take up social work at a young age. Still studying in class X, she joined Shaktishalini, another NGO as a typist and grew to become a coordinator. It was when she was assigned to work in Nangloi that she came face-to-face with the difficulties of women of the area. No girl children were provided with much education in this area. They were sent to school for the first few years and then asked to leave by their families to do the housework and look after their younger siblings. These young girls were even married as early as 14. Marriage too did not provide meaningful security; many were sent back to their parents after childbrith, or beaten by their husbands, or burnt for dowry and such. Seeing all this, Reena requested Shaktishalini to start a center in Nangloi but that did not happen. However, to Reena's aid came Unnati Foundation and Nav Shrishti was born on October 2, 1994. From a small room rented at Rs. 300 a month, Reena and Shahjahan apa, her colleague from Shaktishalini, who is also a resident of Nangloi, started their work on the issue of the girl child and the community of Nangloi. Today after 6 years, and with support of organisations like CRY - Child Relief and You, the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, Central Social Welfare Board and National Foundation of India, Nav Shrishti has become a stepping stone for many a girl child. Pushpa began attending the non-formal education centre (NFE) started by Nav Shrishti. Though her step mother was not very keen on her attending them, she enjoyed every bit of it. She liked books, and studies. The teachers too, at Nav Shrishti were impressed by Pushpa as she was an exceptional student at studies. The uncertainty of her continuing with her education, led the teachers to convince Pushpa's parents. They met her father and explained to him that his daughter was one of their best students and he should continue to educate her no matter what. They even offered him an incentive of Rs 500 which they would keep aside as the girl's security money and would give it to her when she leaves the center. Today Pushpa tops all the exams of the NFE and her father is proud to send her there. He insists that she will complete her education and become somebody big someday. There are so many stories of hope at Nav Shrishti that ensures us that there is hope for the future. There is Ruby who joined Nav Shrishti when she was in class 5 and will be appearing for her class XII exams this year. She is also a teacher and trainer at the NFE center. Nav Shrishti's street theatre group is an all-women theatre group. They perform various issue-related nukkad nattaks in the community and also participate at cultural fests organized by other NGOs. Nav Shrishti today can be proud of the 500 girls who are empowered and educated enough to take independent decisions. Their common outcry is that "we do not want to cry like our mothers. We do not want to suffer like our sisters". Rajesh Munshi