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Different dimensions of community work

1. Village Libraries to reach out to young adolescents, especially older girls in the age group of 12 to 18 years.
Enhancing access and interest in the world of books has proved to be an important mechanism for development across time and space. We have experienced libraries to be effective in –
a) Building literacy
b) Building overall access to education
c) Opening up horizons
d) Enhancing access to information
e) Empowering young people and their communities

The youth component of the existing library programmes, which is to be focused on within this project, includes the enhancement and introduction of library resources to cater to the needs and interests of adolescents and young adults. Books, magazines and other material of interest to the youth and adults will be made available to allow access to information and literature from a wider world. In addition, we will also seek to enhance the programme content to allow opportunities for creative expression and enjoyment which will facilitate processes of self development, especially amongst the older girls who lead a very restricted and burdened life. Some of the above mentioned processes are already ongoing but there is a need for strengthening them and taking it across to all the libraries. Each library will try and reach at least 40 to 50 numbers of young persons from the village.

2. Widening the horizons of learning through the implementation of Bal Manchs. This activity visualises the library becoming a hub for getting youth, especially older girls to participate in various processes of self development and meaningful learning which may perhaps also benefit others around them.
The libraries are to be used as collective spaces by village youth.. It is an effort to involve village youth in exploring the local knowledge and history of their villages and surrounding through a guided process. These young explorers select a relevant issue such as, the changes in food practices or social practices or education over time. They start off with a set of their own questions; interact with community elders to seek answers and are gradually equipped towards arriving at an in-depth understanding of the issues through an evidence based process of critical enquiry. The initial response to this activity has been encouraging and has led to interesting outcomes such as wall new papers; projects; posters and story books or comics based on village issues. They have also generated a fair degree of interest within village communities .In some villages these youngsters have begun to take ownership of the libraries and have taken on the responsibility of the running of the village library. Similar Bal Manchs are to be set up in eight villages, with support from an experienced consultant and the library team and volunteers. We are keen to allow these youth fora to evolve in organic ways.

3. Women’s’ Literacy – Some of the OELP libraries have recruited educated daughters –in-law in the villages as librarians. This has proved to be a win-win situation on many fronts. We have found that these women are highly motivated, as this provides them an opportunity for their own self actualisation and growth. It takes them away from the narrow confines of their homes. It also has a spin off effect on other women and adolescent girls. One such effect is that women are getting drawn into the sphere of influence of the libraries, and some, especially those from the more backward social groups are keen to learn to read and write. We have already piloted seven Women’s Literacy Centres for Women from SHG Groups and have developed a contextualised and need based resource kit, which also attempts to build awareness about social issues and provide information on existing development programmes.. We want to carry forward this experience and pilot women’s literacy centres in four villages. These will also try and draw in adolescent girls, especially those from minority communities. Each centre will reach out to 20-25 women/ older girls.

4. Development of material for drawing local knowledge into learning spaces
We are planning to develop contextual reading materials for children of the marginalized communities. Being near children and communities on a daily basis, there is an abundance of context that continuously comes into our space. As part of our Kahani Abhiyan or Story Movement in 2013, which spanned six weeks and covered 40 villages, we collected a variety of local stories, village histories, folk lore etc. This process has continued. We are planning to shortlist some pieces of writing and compile them in a book form. We want to access support for Design students to train local youth with the skills of book illustrations and design. These books will then be produced locally, digitised and circulated within the libraries, as well as within village communities. Through these process community histories, traditions, folklore of indigenous communities will be documented and used in a print form with youth and elders. Later these materials can be standardized and shared with a larger audience

5. Involving the community in the learning process through activities for bridging the gap between generations; gender and social groups. This has included the Potli Baba activity, through which groups of older children carry books and read aloud to villager elders and adults. This has been an effective form of engaging adults with books and more importantly for catalysing a dialogue between generations. The initial experience has been positive. We are keen to allow this experience to grow further and enrich the processes of knowledge building and community empowerment.