Swabhimaan - Spreading Smiles
The name of the organization, which literally means ‘self-respect’, is an initiative of the Smile Foundation that has been working for the sustainable development of deprived girls and women. There are many clear indicators that reveal that Indian women are still victims of discrimination, such as the sex ratio is skewed against them, maternal mortality is the highest in India, more than 40% of women are supressed by the evil of illiteracy and crimes against women are on the rise. It is indeed paradoxical that while in modern-day India, women are wielding power and prosperity at the highest rungs of success and glory, yet on the other hand, there are large sections of women who are leading unprivileged lives in many respects. The main areas of concern that seek to be redressed are health, sanitation, education, employment and social status.
Started in the year 2005, the programme laid down by this noble initiative was conceptualized in accordance with the goals and objectives that are enshrined in the National Policy for the empowerment of women. Its chief objective is to work with a bifocal approach, so as to create processes and the favourable environment for women and adolescent girls at the grassroots level to realize their potential to the fullest in all aspects of societal living. The programme specifically has been conceived and implemented with the goal to realize both the individual and collective self-esteem and inner strength for marginalized and socially excluded women and adolescent girls through community practices that are innovative and effective.
The programme identifies and adolescent girls and women from the community and developing them into Change Agents, who in turn actively contribute to the process of mobilizing the community. Selected Change Agents are then trained and developed into Master Trainers who are capable enough to advocate and sensitize the female population regularly. The agendas and interventions of Swabhimaan which are aimed at the all-round development of women include educational support, provision of reproductive health and child-care services, incorporating attitudinal and behavioural changes amongst men so that their involvement in ensured, imparting life-skill education, networking and convergence support, sensitization of privileged women and youth etc.
For education, Swabhimaan has identified the deserving yet deprived adolescent girls and provided full academic aid to them. It has also successfully induced positive changes in the attitudes of parents, by making them aware of the importance of sending their daughters to school. The many beneficiaries of this initiative are children of sex workers, children of leprosy and/or HIV/AIDS affected parents, street children, etc. Similarly, the mobile health clinic of Swabhimaan extends medical help to the emergent needs of women and girls, including general health care services, necessary abortions, sterilizations, etc. It also carries out the much-required process of sensitization through advocacy events like walkathons, celebration of significant occasions such as girl child day, World AIDS Day, Human Rights Day etc., mime shows, puppet shows, street plays, programmes on mass media and such others.
It also conducts certain events in association with some of the most reputed educational institutions of the country so as to spread its message as far as possible. Eminent personalities hailing from different fields like Kiran Bedi, Manisha Koirala, Anjali Ela Menon, Sushma Seth, Farooque Sheikh, Santosh Yadav,Raghavendra Rathore to name a few have also been associated with these programmes some time or the other. Since its inception, this programme has benefited more than 150,000 women and girls across India.