Nai DishaWhile monsoon rains have been sparse in these parts this year and a curtailed crop yield is the hot topic of discussion in most of the Nuh district of Haryana, in a small rustic section of Malab village here, Sunita’s buffalo is the talk of the town.

“We needed quick cash for a family emergency and decided the best way to achieve it was to sell our buffalo. My husband wanted to sell it for a minimum of Rs. 50,000 and I wanted to use the opportunity to impress him with my entrepreneurial abilities. I told him I will sell it for at least Rs. 5,000 more,” recalls 40-yearold Sunita.

While her husband was away, a potential buyer approached Sunita. When asked what he would offer for the bovine, he said Rs. 60,000. Lack of education, inability to decipher numbers and with her mind set on the pre-decided figure, Sunita argued that the cattle will not be sold for anything less than Rs. 55,000 and if the gentleman was not interested he may well be on his way. Needless to say, the deal was quickly finalised and Sunita was ecstatic.

The happiness was, however, short-lived as Sunita’s husband returned the day after.

“When he learnt about the offered amount he was furious and started calling me names.

Initially, I was shocked, but when I realised the blunder I had made, I felt very depressed,” she says, before quickly adding, “I challenge anyone to make a fool of me now. That old Sunita is now past.”

This newfound confidence is a result of Sunita’s training in functional literacy under the Nai Disha project. Basic understanding of digits is an integral part of the project and has helped many like Sunita in managing their household economy better.

“One of the first things I did after the training was to make a budget diary for my household expenses. This way, I get to practice my writing while also keep track of my spending and check unwanted expenditures,” she says.

“As an Accredited Social Health Activist of my village, literacy has also helped me in filling up forms, an exercise for which I had to take help of others.”

HPPI in partnership with Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. (TCS) is implementing the adult literacy programme ‘Nai Disha- Functional Literacy for women empowerment’, to empower 100,000 women from four States, namely Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh. The programme uses the proven model of Computer-based Functional Literacy (CBFL) developed by TCS, imparting learning modules through a teaching software, multimedia presentations and printed material delivered by Preraks (facilitators).

For Sunita, the key approach of Nai Disha project that had maximum impact on her and her batch mates has been the use of the laptop in the classes.

“The programme starts with words such as makan (house) and other everyday words. This helps us to recognise and memorise the letters easily without the need of remembering the entire sequence. This method is much quicker and helps us retain what we learn better,” she says.

“Whenever we got stuck or had trouble in writing, our Prerak, Manisha, was always at hand to guide us along.

” When asked about her message for other unlettered women of her age who believe it is now too late to gain literacy, Sunita’s reply is explicit and emphatic.

“The first word we learn in Nai Disha is makan and the project literally came to our house to gift us literacy. I only request all the illiterate women I can reach to please open your doors to such an initiative and, if you have to, fight your way to be a part of it. There is no age for gaining literacy and the freedom that follows is unparalleled.”

As we leave her house it is clear that the buffalo banter in the bylanes of Sunita’s street is yet to subside, but her confidence makes it equally certain that this was the last time anyone got better of her in such matters.

Nai Disha 2

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Humana People to People India is a development organization registered as a not-for-profit company under section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956 as of 21st May 1998. It is a non-political, non-religious organization. Its mission is to unite with people in India in order to create development in the broadest sense through the implementation of the projects that aim at transferring knowledge, skills and capacity to individuals and communities who need assistance to come out of poverty and other dehumanizing conditions.

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