Two self-help groups (SHG) in Pandori village in Jammu gather twice a month for a storytelling session held by village coordinator Shampy. The stories are about various inspirational topics, taken from India’s vast cultural heritage, as well as some contemporary biographies. The aim of these sessions is to spark enthusiasm in the listeners. This time, the story was about Mary Kom, a boxer who fought her way to the top of the athlete world with her determination and discipline.
After storytelling, Shampy and a total of 11 women discussed about how to be more courageous in taking up initiatives and not hiding behind the home door. Conversation touched sore subjects like abusive behaviour at home and how to end that cycle by empowering oneself. Women sharing thoughts with each other emboldens to think differently. That is what SHG members feel about the session when they gather together.
Following the empowering storytelling sessions, another initiative started in Pandori: adult literacy classes. Five graduate students are teaching reading and writing to those currently illiterate adults willing to learn. The ratio at the moment is one teacher for two students. Shampy notes that in the beginning when she was inquiring possible learners, not much interest was shown. However, Shampy came up with solution to inspire women by simply telling that knowing reading and writing no one needs to rely on others in that matter.
Now the fifteen women are gathering four times a week. First thing to learn was to write one’s own name. Once the new skill dawned, there was no holding back anymore; the eagerness to learn more took over.