Urmul has been working towards strengthening the status of the child in the society. It understands the onus on progression and development lies on children and all efforts need to be focused on these founding pillars of the society. It has been working systematically with the communities, the local authorities, as well as policy-makers to strengthen opportunities and ensure survival for children in the desert. From ICDS to schools, Urmul has closely worked and proved long-term changes can be strewn the society. It has worked to strengthen the communities to take the ownership of development constructs and positive progression in the society.
The overall approach has been inclusive of
- Supporting the government in planning and implementation of its programmes more effectively and with better coverage reaching out to the most marginalised groups;
- Establishing strong district and state level networks to bring focus on block and village level issues and for advocating better programmes and policies for the community;
- Capacity building of communities and other key stakeholders;
- Formation of strong community collectives/groups (e.g. children’s groups, SHGs, jal samitis, etc.) around specific issues for ensuring better living opportunities;
- Establish models as demonstration sites and pilot innovations on a small scale study the effectiveness and draw inferences for their large scale replication, supported with documentation and dissemination; e.g. Shiksha Karmi Project, Lok Jumbish, Balika Shivirs, Marushalas, Community Health Workers, etc.
- Strategically, child protection is integrated in all its programmes and special focus is given to the most disadvantaged groups, which include girls and children of scheduled castes and tribes addressing the issues of child marriage, child labour, gender biases, etc.
Urmul and its commitment to eliminate Child Marriage, Female Foeticide and infanticide
Urmul understands that a strong and indigenous drive towards a comprehensive development can be initiated and innovated from within the communities alone. Until the community adopts and initiates a change from within, efforts cannot be superimposed and to initiate this effort it is essential that all sections be empowered and equal. This draws an immediate impetus to enable a voice for women in the Thar. This also, simultaneously, brings in the need to work with the powerful sections to dilute and decentralise the traditional power silos, i.e. patriarchy, male dominance and caste and class biases. Its efforts germinate in the belief that true empowerment is possible only when men give women the space to be themselves and exercise their rights to being human.
In 2011, Urmul pledged its partnership to the Global alliance, Girls Not Brides (GNB), to eliminate child marriage. It was a part of the first global strategy development meeting by The Elders at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and at its equivalent for the South Asia region held in Delhi in February 2012. The Elders team including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Mary Robinson, Ela Bhatt raised the issue with south Asian civil society, International Development organisation, Planning Commission members and political leaders. UNICEF and UNFPA were also present in this meeting.
In 2005, Urmul initiated a programme “Dignity of the Girl Child” in the districts of Sri Ganganagar, Hanumangarh and Jaisalmer to eliminate female foeticide, infanticide, child marriage, and domestic violence and to restore and safeguard the dignity of the girl child. This programme continues to be carried out in the regions.
Over the twenty-five years, Urmul has been innovating several initiatives to support its mission. Beginning with interventions especially designed for promotion of girls’ education in Marushalas, Balika Shivirs (Girls residential education camps) and various vocational trainings, Urmul has been working to strengthen girls and their status in the society. It has been running the ICDS scheme in one block of Bikaner since 1991 to support and strengthen maternal-infant and adolescent health. It has been working with various women’s self-help groups and adolescent girls’ forums and groups in the villages to strengthen them through capacity building and community mobilisation.