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27. June 2013

Mewat May 2013

Mewat May 2013 Radio

Mothers Schools Mewat

We are happy to share with you the promising reports from SAVE’s newest Mothers School in Mewat India: spearheaded by SAVE’s longstanding partner, Archana Kapoor.

Launched in the isolated, dusty rural area just south of New Delhi, Mewat’s 1 million Meo Muslims face harsh realities from a chronic lack of basic services, lack of opportunities and little interaction with the world outside a 50 KM radius. Living in these circumstances has led the population to engage in violence and illegal activities. So, there is a fear that conditions are ‘ripe for radicalization’ for many boys and young men under the influence of conservative groups such as the Tableeg-e-Jammat.

With limited efforts by the security forces and no respect in the local police and with fathers playing limited nurturing roles anyway - mothers are arguably best placed in the family to recognize and help prevent the frustrations and conflict that increase the vulnerability of their children to extremist rhetoric. Indeed, in terms of strengthening the resilience of communities to radicalization forces, it is dangerous to overlook mothers’ roles in bringing up the younger generation.

Mewati mothers are no different to mothers around the world: they love their children and want them to be healthy, educated and to safeguard them as they grow. Yet women in Mewat are the most economically and socially excluded group in the community, they are subjugated and disempowered and completely unaware of their potential and individuality.  Talking about radicalization and extremism is an absolute taboo.  Even meeting other women outside the home to discuss their concerns is a challenge – tantamount to succumbing to the ‘whites’. One Facilitator commented that: “Fear within women is such a limiting factor- she is afraid of challenging authority as she has been subjugated all through her life”.

The Mothers School Mewat then is working to support mothers in this challenge firstly, by boosting mothers’ self-confidence and communication skills, to be comfortable and able to express themselves in a group of strangers of different religious groups, to speak up and join in open discussions and activities without fear of embarrassment or judgment.  These are the cornerstone skills for mothers to create a positive climate for family conversations as well. Archana reports that for many of the participants it was the first time they shared a simple chronicle of their lives: “Many said they were grateful for the meetings, as they feel so much lighter after sharing their stories. Nobody would listen to them at home and they were glad that they could vent their pain”

In the ongoing meetings the mothers are exploring what skills and talents they already posses such as: ‘the ability to multi-task, to keep calm in adversity and be the voice of reason in any controversial situation.’ From such discussions many very positive examples surfaced: such as Ruby’s who overcame incredible family resistance to work as a teacher and a nurse and is now in the last semester of her undergraduate studies. It was the first time she has ever told anyone.  Meena continued to run the family shop herself when her husband became sick, and despite the ridicule from others she succeed to feed the family keep her daughter in school. Now she is a health worker and organizes a thrift group for other women, she says: “Sometimes circumstances help you to know yourself and your strengths”. These stories serve as a wonderful inspiration to others, to help them to raise their voices and participate in decision making in the home and the local Panchayat and bring their potential in to the community.  

The ten groups, who are the forerunners of the Mothers Schools in Mewat, are already half way through the twelve modules. Through activities and exchange the mothers learn more about the psycho-social development of children, communication techniques with teenagers, and conflict resolution, and the role of mothers in reducing violence and promoting empathy.   The meetings build on the personal capacity of mothers with parenting skills so they will be better equipped to keep them on a positive path and keep children in schools, to create alternative activities for them, to prevent their children from engaging in petty crime, to confront the acceptance and use of violence and to deal with their grievances against the state.  

It was also interesting when the participants acknowledged that even when they know that there is something wrong in the child’s behavior they prefer to not raise an alarm or talk to the child. Their fear of personal rejection or being ignored is stronger than the fear of the child getting caught later. Their fear of the child being rejected by the community prevents them from raising their voices. However it was generally agreed that discussion can take place without arguments or fights. One mother captured her new perspective saying: “I don’t need to have power to have authority; a mother who is aware of her own qualities will be able to appreciate her child for his or her qualities.”

These messages are of such value to them and their community that it becomes worth spreading. Where, initially, there was skepticism and a touch of fear from the participants, now, women motivate others around them to come to the centres and bring their friends. There are up to 40 mothers joining in each group meeting three times per week, all eager to learn and develop and apply their personal skills. To reach many other mothers the SAVE has taken an exciting step in the global implementation strategy of the Mothers School concept. In partnership with SMART NGO it will be the first to air selected segments of the curriculum on Radio Mewat’s community radio station. This is a very special asset as Radio Mewat, has a listenership of 500,000 people and in this way Mothers School messages will be broadcast out to mothers, fathers and youth alike. And the message is simple as one mother says: “When I can communicate with my children better and channel their energies in the right direction, they cannot be drawn to violent groups or negative activities –merely out of boredom”.

Building on the positive reception of our pilot Mothers School in India and Tajikistan, SAVE is expanding this innovative concept to regions such as Zanzibar and Kashmir, as well.


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