In Bakruar Dakshin, which is rural location in Gaya, Ms. Anju runs an AWC. Over the course of our programme implementation in this area, there have been changes in how Anju relates to the community and the children she works with, and her work.
Our PO visited the centre in March/April, 2019. Observations showed that Anju was disconnected and disinterested in the children of her centre. Interactions with her revealed that she did not see how the children from this community would benefit from any kind of education. She was convinced that it would make no difference to the children or their futures. They would grow up to do the same work their parents did. Children from the Musahar community access this AWC; there is a Buddhist temple close to the centre which is frequented by foreigners, and mothers and children in the area tend to beg in the temple premises. Fathers typically work as daily wagers. The AWC felt the children are more interested in begging than coming to the centre.
During the first visit that our PO made with the CDPO, Anju was unexcited about having this centre developed as a training centre for the CDPO. She felt it would mean extra work for her. When given the list of materials that had to be created, she was unhappy about it. With the support of our PO, she helped the AWW understand that the material was to be locally created using local and reusable material, and the CPDO herself made material to demonstrate. She also did activities while the AWW observed. After the CDPO conducted activities, she would also engage with the AWW, explain how the activity was to be done, and encourage her to do it in her centre. The CDPO continued making her visits without our PO.
When our PO visited after about two months, for preparation of Cycle 2 training, he observed there had been a change in how the AWW conducted herself. She cooperated with our PO, and was also supportive of the CDPO. Following one training where the CDPOs had assembled at that centre for a training, the AWW appears to have gained newfound respect for the officials. She saw them take off their shoes, sit in a circle on the floor, and do activities with the children without inhibitions. She expressed later that she felt more respect towards these officials and also did not feel so fearful of them.
Additionally, there has been a change in her relationship with the children. She is eager to have them in the centre and wants the children to come to the centre. The CDPO would guide her that irrespective of the communities that children came from, children would make something of themselves if nurtured. Anju now conducts activities with the children and speaks to them respectfully. However, she still struggles with ensuring good attendance since children run off to the neighbouring temple. Anju’s story reflects that it is indeed possible to reflect on our own assumptions and the right kind of leadership can result in institutional change. An environment of encouragement and patience that was provided by the CDPO resulted in a gradual chipping away of Anju’s assumptions about the utility of her work in the centre and about the children of the community. By continuing to support the CDPO as well as Anju in her journey, we hope to make a difference to the lives of many such children who are otherwise ignored and underestimated.
 The Musahar community is one that is traditionally compelled to catch and subsist on rats. They are one of the poorest scheduled castes, socio-economically backward and highly stigmatized. (https://nhrc.nic.in/press-release/study-musahar-community-bihar)