PARICHITI has been working with the adolescent girls at Shahid Smriti for more than five years. The girls were inspired by the self-help group that the women domestic workers had formed with the help of Parichiti. They wanted to form their own group and named it Notun Dal. Parichiti helped them form the group and has been carrying out various activities with them such as Dance Movement Therapy, Meyebala festival, interaction sessions, training in martial arts and so on. The most profound change has been in the world view and self-confidence of the girls, which becomes clear upon interacting with them. Below are some snippets and testimonials of a few Notun Dal members.
SHIBANI HALDAR has been a member of Notun Dal for the past four years. She is twenty years old and currently studying BA General under Calcutta University. She says that before coming to the Dal her world was confined and restricted- “Some of us hold on to old ways of thinking. I too thought that women should dress and behave in a certain way. After coming here and interacting with the didis from Parichiti my world has opened up. I now believe that women should make their own choices in everything.” Shibani hold Dance Movement Therapy responsible for instilling a sense of confidence in her. She believes it has helped her develop a better understanding of the world around her by connecting her to a larger community of girls.
KEYA DUTTA is pursuing her BA from Calcutta University. She has been a part of Notun Dal since its inception five years ago. She feels that the Dal has helped her become a part of the community. It has developed confidence and depth in how she identifies and interacts with the world around her. “Due to DMT we have been able to go to several places and it has helped us broaden our perspective. We had gone to Baruipur where we saw that girls even younger than 12 were married off. The educational level was very low and there were no girls’ schools. Such events have profoundly affected and inspired me.” A student of Bangla, she wants to be a teacher in future. This has been her dream since a tender age. She reflects that over time her interactions with her family have also undergone change. Instead of meekly accepting the views of her family members she counteracts them and corrects them on gender issues.
POOJA HALDAR has participated in the activities of Notun Dal since five years. She is currently in class 10. Being a member of the community has given her the voice to demand her own rights- “Here they used to think that women acquiring education is futile and useless. In my family none of the other girls have studied beyond class 5. When I asked my parents to allow me to study my uncles said ‘what is the use of her studying as ultimately she has to get married.’” Pooja fought against several odds to continue her education. She dreams of being a photographer but is shy of speaking about it as she feels that her aspirations are too farfetched for her means. She is unsure whether her dreams will ever be fulfilled.
RIYA SARKAR is currently doing her Bachelors in sociology from Calcutta University. She has been a part of Notun Dal since past five years. She believes that Notun Dal has prepared them as role models for others in their community. So she tries to be a person others can confide in and seek help from in times of need. This confidence and character has been instilled in her through the interactions and activities at Notun Dal- “Even if I felt angry on certain issues I used to keep quiet as I was unable to articulate my views. But now I can speak and argue logically. I have developed a greater sense of self-esteem and purpose.” She is also undergoing a beautician’s training program along with her studies.