Ms. Shipra Bhardwaj’s journey, who is the CDPO of Banmankhi project in Purnea, has been one of reconnecting with her desire to make a difference in the lives of children. From having lost hope in the system to rediscovering her sense of purpose and conviction, Ms. Shipra appears to embody an important aspect of the ICDS Leadership Programme (ILP) – to help individuals gain a sense of purpose, to affect a change of heart, leading to change that is meaningful, long-lasting and sustainable.
When our Project Manager met Shipra for the first time during cycle 1 implementation in February, 2019, Shipra showed low initiative during the setting up of the learning space. She was uninvolved and visibly disconnected from the training process, speaking little and barely interacting. Our PM had to coax and encourage her to take initiative.
It was during the Cycle 2 training held in Gaya in August, 2019, that we discovered the reasons for Shipra’s disengagement. On the last day of training which includes a sharing session, she expressed her thoughts and feelings. She said that she had taken up this job to make a change. She wanted to make a change but was very troubled by how work had progressed. She had even been on the verge of quitting due to feelings of hopelessness. However, after receiving this training, she felt that she would finally be able to affect the change she had always wanted to.
During the Cycle 2 trainings, she sat on the floor for her training sessions and improved on her training centre. She earnestly worked on material creation using reusable and locally sourced material. In order to set an example that low-cost material creation was completely possible, she hired a local worker to work with bamboo and create a rack for her training centre (as opposed to resorting to purchase of steel cupboards, which would be a far stretch economically for all centres). This rack functioned as a storage space for the learning material, at heights that were comfortable for children, and the top functioned as a space for pre-planning for teachers. This was inspirational and a new idea for our PO as well. She used jute-straws for the stringing activity and created material using things from the environment. Shipra tried to minimise expenditures on material creation as much as possible keeping in mind the aspect of scalability.
While conducting her own trainings, she would let the supervisors know at the outset that there were no separate funds for these trainings nor for creation of learning material, which has become common practice in the system. She monitored supervisor trainings and also asked for our PO’s support for monitoring the trainings occasionally. During these trainings, she also engaged with AWW’s and their queries, which were often related to costs of material creation. She provided alternatives such as sourcing boxes, bottles from the community instead of buying them for a shop.
Our PO reflects that Shipra’s monitoring and supervision has also become more supportive. Earlier she was impatient with her supervisors, but currently, she tries to understand why something has not been done, and supports them in finding ways to complete the task. Shipra also actively asks supervisors for timelines of their practice and trainings. This was not the case earlier. Further, pre-Gaya, Shipra had had limited interaction with children in AWCs. During AWC visits, she would only check the register for attendance and food. Presently, she also looks at how the ECCE activities are being conducted. Shipra practices activities at her centre, even with a full workload. She often forgets her own paperwork when she’s at the centre. She is keen on improving ECCE work in centres across her project.
Currently, Shipra is keen on developing a model centre with minimal costs and maximum use of materials that are reusable or locally, freely available. She hopes this would serve as a model for everyone to show that it was possible to provide good ECCE without high costs. Shipra’s journey is one of hope. Seeing possibility for change in CLR’s training process and content, Shipra regained hope. Shipra had always harboured the desire to work well, to bring meaningful change. The ILP served to reconnect her with her sense of purpose. This in turn drove her to re-engage with the ICDS system by working closely with her subordinates. Through Shipra’s sincere and heartfelt efforts, several AWWs across her blocks are slowly but steadily undergoing positive transformations.