The Educate Girls office in Pali saw a burst of activity last month when a group of writers and photographers descended upon the staff to collect stories for the Katha Shivir workshop. Among the visitors were Prakash K Ray (filmmaker and cinema researcher from New Delhi), Ram Kumar Singh (Senior Correspondent, Rajasthan Patrika, Jaipur), Dr. Dushant (Senior Associate Editor, Rajasthan Patrika, Jaipur), Avinash Das (Journalist, New Delhi), Kishan Deo (Journalist, New Delhi), photographer Vinita Agarwal (UK) and videographer Michael Cottrill (UK).

The Katha Shivir was intended to facilitate the publication of photo stories, short videos and testimonials. During the four day workshop success stories were narrated by the field staff, Team Balika members, community members and of course the girls themselves. The goal of the workshop was to compile the stories of the girls in a structured manner and use them to promote the cause of girl child education. The stories help to share solutions to social problems and inspire innovations to improve girls’ education in India and Rajasthan in particular.

The stories were written in English and Hindi, in a narrative style that captured the imagination of the readers. This included photo essays and stories of child brides, and also girls who stayed in school and escaped the fate of become child brides. The writers also wrote profiles of the young enthusiastic Team Balika members and documented their challenges and achievements. The stories are an autobiographical or biographical expressions of the events and experiences of the girls and the Team Balika volunteers.

Avinash Das talks to us about his experience at the Katha Shivir: “The Katha Shivir was a unique experience! The case studies were very powerful. It’s almost as if there was complete darkness in these villages with no hope of there ever being any light, but getting these girls to schools has given them a new lease on life. Each person had a unique story. I was especially moved by Kanya’s story. She is a twelve year old with the most amazing personality. Her story moved me greatly and I am determined to make a film on her. Her 19 year old brother died in a road accident and her mother went mad with grief. Her father drinks all day and beats up the two women. Kanya manages the whole house. She cooks and cleans, gathers wood from the jungle, goes to school, does her homework. Her life has so many layers! But despite her troubles one can never see any sadness on her countenance. She is so cheerful and talks of wanting to become a dancer or a Bollywood film heroine!”

The workshop wasn’t all serious work though. The group had the chance to unwind, go shopping for the famous Falna radio- a local specialty, and also indulge in a game of cricket!

So what’s next? We will take these stories to rest of the world through newspapers, blogs, print and electronic media. The group of writers and photographers will present 40 photo stories, 500 words each. The video clippings and the stories will further be complied into a book. Watch this space for more updates!

Twitter: #educategirls #tellingstories #teambalika

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