Giving girls in India tools for self-defence and self-reliability
The right to education is a universal human right. For girls in particular, it is non-negotiable. In India, schools are open to girls from all strata of society, sure enough. But how easy is it for girls to actually make use of this right? As Sonja Kabbashi-Andjelkovic, one of the founders of Business Makes Sense, explains, the simple act of going to school can prove rather difficult. “For most young girls from the countryside, going to high school in Delhi is a major challenge. They take upon themselves a long and perilous journey from their villages to the Indian capital, just to attend class.” Even before stepping foot in a school building, the road to Delhi itself is dangerous. “They are often subjected to gender-based violence, assault and harassment,” she maintains. “It’s incredibly risky for them to exercise their right to education.”
As Indian NGO ‘Breakthrough’ found in a study in 2014, as many as 52% of all schoolgirls face some form of sexual harassment on their way to school. 23% have had to deal with incidents in schools or college buildings.
The solution at hand: Girls need to be able to defend and assert themselves.
And so the concept of Shakti was born in 2016: to help provide for girls’ safety in and around Delhi. “The idea to help give vulnerable girls the tools to defend themselves came through a meeting in Delhi, with a colleague and taekwondo blackbelt holder, Karthik,” Sonja explains. “We asked Karthik’s master, if his business would be willing to support our project,” Sonja continues, “and he agreed to it immediately.”
But Shakti means more than teaching the girls martial arts to master challenging or dangerous situations: It also gives them prospects for the future, strengthens their resilience, improves their well-being and physical and mental condition as well as their school performance. In addition, BMS took care of the nutrition of the girls before the training.
For the relatively small amount of €200 per girl for annual tuition – including a taekwondo uniform, a breakfast per day, and transport costs to competitions (which they started taking part in after a year of training) – ten girls made the first cut in 2016. Originally working with Mr. Krishnas Taekwondo Matrix Academy in Noida, they managed to create quite the buzz with their newfound skills, by winning belts and getting to school without incident. When the girls won belts and fame, regional interest increased, and eventually, around 30 new girls joined the next round of training.
The project costs of approximately €2,000 were covered by German philanthropists, and the training has been held by the Taekwondo Matrix Academy in Delhi. In India, martial arts enjoy widespread recognition, and the Taekwondo Association of India (TAI) works tirelessly around the country with more than 3,000 schools and clubs, training millions of students.
The training continued until April 2020 and was only interrupted due to the COVID pandemic. The trainings are about to resume with a new batch in Delhi and another one in Bangalore in November/December 2022.
But there is more: “Not only do girls need self-defence and martial arts skills”, says Karthik, “they also need opportunities for income.”
Besides learning taekwondo for self-defence, the girls get the chance to compete in contests and they will – in a second stage – learn how to become taekwondo trainers themselves. By enabling and helping to create employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for girls who make it to the black belt and become instructors, Business Makes Sense also found its calling: To support social businesses and contribute to economic and social development.
Educating rural communities to reduce single-use plastic.
“We only have one planet, we need to protect it.”, says Mora, co-founder and co-director of Mudfish No Plastic. “Protecting our planet means protecting our own future and the future of our children.” But her home country, Indonesia, is the world’s second-largest plastic polluter, she explains. It produces more than 64 million tons of plastic waste every year. Over 3.2 million tons of which get dumped into the ocean. The once pristine white sand beaches have been flooded with countless plastic bags, bottles, shoes and toys of all colors and shapes.
Stopping this calamity from killing the colorful life in our oceans is an effort that requires large initiatives on a global scale. After all, over 1 million marine animals of 700 species (including mammals, fish, sharks, turtles, and birds) die an agonizing death each year due to plastic debris, which they mistake for food. Every day, 500 million plastic straws are thrown away. It is estimated that to date there are around 100 million tons of plastic in oceans around the world. That’s the weight of approx. 12 million elephants.
At present, Indonesia does not have a proper waste management system. Illegal dumping, littering and burning of garbage are common practices in local villages. Toxic smoke even on school yards and playgrounds is the result. Many people lack awareness of the problem, and access to education and practical solutions. “People are so used to the piles of plastic in their villages and rivers. They don’t even realize how harmful it is and that there is another way”, explains Mora.This is where Mudfish No Plastic comes in. Together with some friends, Mora decided that they can no longer just stand idle in the face of the pollution on the island of Bali, the home of their choice. “We know that we cannot fight the big companies that produce all that plastic”, Mora says, “so we decided to do something else.” They founded the grass-roots organization Mudfish No Plastic to provide remote Indonesian communities with the necessary education and introduce solutions to reducing single-use plastic.
“Their approach is based on the belief that young people can be catalysts for change”, explains Gidon, a co-founder of Business Makes Sense. “In our joint projects, we empower village kids through knowledge and practical tools.” In this way, the young generation gets inspired to take responsibility for their actions. Mudfish has set up an interactive, colorful education program, and brings across their message through arts and music.In a series of engaging workshops, the kids learn about the damaging effects of the pollution trough single-use plastic on the environment and human health. Moreover, Mudfish provides practical solutions such as water filters, reusable bottles, tote bags, and trash bins. They involve teachers and parents to include the entire community. Besides workshops for kids, they also organize regular beach and river clean-ups and offer an educators’ training program and a women’s hygiene program.
So far, the organization has reached over 4,000 children on different islands in East Indonesia. Mora and her friends aim high: Over time, they want Mudfish to be recognized as a local educational resource in Indonesia. They know that to solve the problem of plastic waste requires a more comprehensive education about waste management and other environmental issues. “Ultimately, our goal is to inspire a generational shift within the communities”, says Mora. “We want these kids to become educators and advocates for a clean and green Indonesia!”
Support families with disabled children through awareness raising and food security.
Children with disabilities are one of the most marginalized and excluded groups in society. Estimates suggest that there are at least 93 million children with disabilities in the world. They are often likely to be among the poorest members of society. They are less likely to attend school, access medical services, or have their voices heard. Their disabilities also place them at a higher risk of physical abuse, and often exclude them from receiving proper nutrition or humanitarian assistance in emergencies.
In Rwanda, poverty, disease, accidents, lack of medical care, and congenital causes account for the majority of disability. In the Maraba sector in the south of Rwanda, there are many families with children with disabilities. Some of them live in extreme poverty and their children are often marginalized. “ One of the biggest challenges for children with disabilities is the level of stigmatization and discrimination they experience in their communities”, says Enock, the founder of the initiative. His idea was to offer awareness raising and educational sessions for parents of children with disabilities, as well as teachers and village communities in order to support their human rights. “At first parents were not very interested in attending the sessions, but when we came up with the idea to distribute goats to them they were willing to take part in the awareness raising activities “, Enock explains.
Since 2017 Enock is working on supporting families together with Business Makes Sense; every year between 10-20 families have received goats to support their nutritional needs. Furthermore, they were encouraged to breed and create sources of income. At the same time these families learnt about the human rights of people with disabilities, child protection issues as well as administrative requirements like birth registration, services for their children and the need for prevention of violence. Sonja and Enock have been in touch since the beginning of his initiatve and Enock has received support in how to prepare a proposal and how to write reports. Personally, he has developed many skills as well that help him identify community needs and come up with advocacy and initiative. He is in process of setting up a facebook page, has published some videos about his initiative on youtube.