Empowering children to build stronger communities
Balsena is a children’s collective. It serves as a platform for children to understand and their rights--such as their right to education, their right to stop labouring, and their right to an abuse-free life. Through weekly gatherings right in their own neighbourhoods and schools, children also learn how to voice their opinion and stand up for those rights. You’ll often see the children marching through the streets, campaigning door to door, or rallying in front of local government offices to raise awareness about issues they care about.
We use cooperative games as a way to open up discussion about leadership, empathy, and solidarity. These discussions lead into life skills training such as how to express oneself, how to think critically to solve problems and make decisions, how to cope with stress, and how to be mindful of their actions and their affect on others. Children are encouraged to practice public speaking and taking the lead in activities, which helps build their self-confidence.
Through Balsena, children find their inner strength to withstand external pressures. They can assert themselves to authority figures, pull themselves out of child labour or substance abuse, and resist child marriage. Empathetic with a strong sense of solidarity, Balsena children are known for standing up for others in their time of need. Inclusive, kind, and confident, Balsena children are active agents of social change in their families, their schools, and communities. Find out more here
To encourage independent decision making regarding money spending among children, Shaishav facilitates the Bachat Bank, a children’s savings bank initiative attached to Balsena. The children deposit a minimum of Rs. 5 per week. Each deposit is registered by Shaishav and placed in a regular bank account in the name of Balsena, and the reason for each withdrawal from each child’s account is also recorded.
The children deposit a minimum of Rs. 5 per week. Each deposit is registered by Shaishav and placed in a regular bank account in the name of Balsena, and the reason for each withdrawal from each child’s account is also recorded.
Savings bank program completely revolutionised how Balsena children started looking at their own lives and their financial independence, and there are several instances of children who have gone on all the way to college simply with the savings they had. As a result, 90% of bank withdrawal reasons are for academic reasons or to assist with family expenses.
The people's school
Although in theory there is universal education, the reality is that many children, particularly in marginalized communities, do not attend school, or only attend part time. The children we work with are often the first in their family to go to school. Unfortunately, in the slum areas in which we work, access to quality education is limited. Lack of quality education results in low levels of quality learning, low academic confidence levels, and high drop-out rates. When children drop out of school and fall into labour, they are more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
We provide Balsena children and other children in the area with community education centers called “Lok Shala.” This initiative bridges the education gap in the marginalized slum communities of Bhavnagar. Community members trained in innovative teaching methodology provide quality academic support and instruction to the children most prone to dropping out of school. By providing high quality supplemental learning opportunities through daily sessions in their neighborhoods, these vulnerable children will build the confidence and skills they need to succeed in their formal education, increasing their retention rates in formal schooling.
Over the years, we have helped children who never received formal education to enter school. We have helped many others who were forced to drop out re-enter school at the appropriate level, by getting them back up to speed with the learning they missed. Most of the children who have come through this program not only completed 8th standard, they continued onto secondary and higher education because they had the skills and confidence to do so.