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Komal Panwar


Dr. Pramila Sanjaya Tells JWB How Child Marriages Can Be Stopped & More

  • JWB Post
  •  March 29, 2016


It was only in December that Jaipur Women Blog was invited to discuss women empowerment at United Nations SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) meet in association with SIDART (Society for Integrated Development Activities, Research & Training).

Representing JWB, Lovy made some strong points during the discussion. There was another woman throughout the conference who was multi-tasking with the meet & greet, moderating the event, and communicating on a deeply personal level with the female village Sarpanchs. 

Dr. Pramila Sanjaya, the honourable Advisor and the CEO of SIDART, that was set up in 1998, is one of a kind.

P.S. This is what SIDART does: With their focus fixed on human development, especially the empowerment of women and children, SIDART contributes to sustaining human progress by implementing global projects.

Dr. Sanjaya, after a few years of her service as a Class One Gazetted Red officer, later entered the Department of Women & Child Development through special selection. I sat down for a conversation with her.

Me: How did you find yourself taking an interest in Women Empowerment? Where did it all begin?

Dr. Pramila: My mother was working for child labor projects. When in school, we used to accompany her during her field visits. In fact, I learnt my public oration skills from her. Once, we visited the Ram Ganj area in Jaipur. We went to a house in that area, and my mother asked the woman why her children hadn’t visited the school that day. She was visiting her based on the reports she had received from the officials. The woman removed the curtain attached to the other room, and we saw all children lying side by side. 

They are suffering from fever. Two of them had less fever, so I sent them to the factory to work. It’s better than sending them to school because in that way, at least, we’ll have food to eat for the night, as well as money to buy medicine for the children who have a high fever.”

My mother and I were touched. Wasn’t she right, though? The woman added that “I can sacrifice everything for their education if you promise me that it will get them jobs.”

She WAS right. The quality of education was very poor. And so, clearly the mother chose breadwinning over it. 

Dr. Pramila had a brilliant idea for empowering women and educating children at the same time. Women, who were 10th pass, could teach children, and that way, both the objectives would be met.

At the United Nations SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) meet, we had learnt how SIDART was empowering village women rapidly.

Me: How long did it take you to convince the villagers to let their women participate in the activities you organize? How difficult was it to break the rigid mindsets of the villagers? 

Dr. Pramila: I had already worked with the Department of Women and Child Development for a long time and thus, our minds were trained to tackle such situations. We began with minuscule activities inviting all the villagers and basti residents to listen to our talk. Once they were convinced that we were not trying to break their traditions, they took it pretty well. Some of them were scared that we’d ask the men to cook food thrice a week, and that was our way of empowering women. 

We explain with the help of examples: “Can you run a tractor with one small and one big wheel?” No. They have to be of the same size.” At that, the villagers nod. “Similarly, in a family, a woman has to be as intelligent as the man, or she has now the power of decision making.” To which the men reply, “But, she has zero brains, she’s illiterate. How will she be able to understand anything?” “Teach her,” is what we respond with, and then they are stuck in a trap.

Winning them through communication is the key. Rajasthan is doing well, now.

Me: Still, Rajasthan is infamous for Child Marriages, and we still have a long way to go, in that direction…

Dr. Pramila: I ask you. If you see a Child Marriage happening at some place, what will you do?

Me: What can I do?

Dr. Pramila: The SDO Court says that you don’t even need to write a written application. Just call on the hotline and SAY where is it happening and to whom. You don’t even need to tell your name! Many villages around Jaipur are scared of getting children married, as they are all scared of the police. Our volunteers as well as the village women associated with SIDART, know the right steps to take! That’s what we have taught them.

P.S. Every district has a different SDO hotline number. You can get it from your nearest police station.



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