Sungava Women's Training Centre was founded on August 20, 1995 in response to a need for Rehabilitation and basic life skills training among girl children with learning difficulties, in particular those with Down's Syndrome. The organisation was registered with Nepal's Social Welfare Council in April 1997 as a Non-Governmental Organisation and is now a member of the National Federation of the Disabled, Nepal.
The founder and chairperson of the organisation is Mrs. Subarna Keshari Chitrakar, herself the mother of a girl with Down's Syndrome.
Sungava's origins were informal and cooperative, with mothers of girls with learning difficulties getting together and deciding to meet from time to time to discuss mutual problems and the possibilities of establishing a training programme for their daughters. From this informal beginning an active and unique organisation has been created.
Sungava's Current Programme and Objectives
Sungava now conducts its training programmes six days a week from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at its Centre in Jamal, Ward No. 1, Seto Durbar, Kathmandu. The organisation has two small rooms available to it and at present the training is attended by twelve girls and is supervised by seven of their mothers.
The training is run with the principles of rehabilitation in mind and has received a great deal of helpful advice from expert doctors, teachers and social workers in Nepal.
Below is an outline of the Centre's general objectives:
1. To Provide education and skills to girls with learning difficulties so that they can, to the greatest degree possible , live independent lives and be more self-reliant in a family environment,
2. To provide means whereby the girls can earn some income of their own through production of handicrafts, art or garments so as to reduce their dependency an others.
3. To help prevent secondary disabilities from emerging by providing physical training and exercise for girls, teaching them how to take care of health and making basic health facilities available to them
4. To create a friendly, safe and intimate environment for the girls and their mothers where they can feel loved and where the mothers can share their problems and ideas.
5. To foster greater confidence in the girls by introducing them to a wide range of people and by taking them into the outside world where they can conduct simple transactions and learn basic survival skills.
6. To increase an awareness and respect for the girls in the wider community by developing programmes which openly acknowledge their equal humanity
The Problems for Girls with Learning Disabilities in Nepal
Many of the problems faced by girls with Down's syndrome and other learning disabilities are similar the world over there are also those peculiar to Nepal, South Asia and the developing world.
Children with these disabilities are regarded by society as a blemish on family status, a punishment for misdeeds in a previous life, an omen of bad luck and generally an object of shame for their parents. Such attitudes make the children, particularly girls, susceptible to exploitation, neglect and abuse. In many cases in Nepal a child with a mental disability has been locked away out of the sight and the situation with their property rights is a cause for concern. Because of neglect and because parents are often not motivated to see medical advice, the probability of these children developing secondary disabilities is higher than it would be in Western countries.
At present there is barely any organisational structure in Nepal to give advice or support to the parents of children with learning disabilities even if the parents are initially enthusiastic about giving attention to their child. This area has been unduly neglected by the "development" powers and the needs of this group of people have been ignored by the government.
Statistics also show that girls are in a worse position than boys. Boys with mental disabilities are much more likely to be taken to medical facilities than girls and as a result many girls are abandoned to an early death from avoidable causes.
It is against this background that Sungava was founded to try and achieve the aims stated above, to change the attitude of Nepali people and to encourage the government to participate in this field.Details of the Training at Sungava
The formal education programme at the centre begins at the most basic introductory level. The girls are taught Nepali and English alphabets and basic neumeracy skills according to their individual capacities. The aim is to enable them to get by in the outside world without continual assistance from being cheated in shops and other public places. This training is conducted by the mothers themselves.
2. Domestic Skills
The girls are taught how to perform such basic daily tasks as cleaning, washing, cooking food, dressing themselves, eating with cutely, and greeting strangers. The girls always tidy and clean up after themselves at the Centre. These simple skills will be invaluable to them in future when careers becomes older and they have to be more independent. Learning about hygiene may also help them to take care of their health.
3. Physical Activities:
Physical games and exercises provide entertainment for the girls and at the same time help to ward of the threat of secondary disabilities by improving their overall fitness. The centre has some basic equipment such as balls, skipping ropes with which exercises can be performed.
Some girls have taken part in some games organised by Nepal's Special Olympics Committee for the Kathmandu area with great enthusiasm.
4. Creative Activities:
The centre has pioneered the use of music, dance and art for the girls. These activities give the girls new opportunities for self-expression and can provide the kind of structure which may otherwise be lacking in physically restricted lives. Many of the girls are excellent drum players with a natural ability in rhythm and they take a lot of pride in their performance. The centre also provides materials for art work and the girls have produced drawing of family members and natural scenes.
Some girls have also taken part as dancers in cultural programmes organised by the Social Welfare Council to which members of the public have been invited. This type of programme has broken down barriers as well as providing entertainment to the girls.
5. Skill Development:
The main emphasis of the Centre has been on skill development. The hopes is that the girls can learn simple skills which can give them income earning opportunities in the future.
At the moment they are being taught in cross stitch, knitting, paper work, making necklaces, sewing of children' toys and production of simple handicrafts. Their mothers train the girls and help with the more complicated tasks. For instance, the mother will draw outlines which the girls will sew or colour.
For Sungava's future plans in this area see below.
6. Medial Check-ups
Sungava has arranged for regular visits from doctors so that the condition of the girl's health can be properly monitored and secondary disabilities detected well in advance.How Sungava has changed the Girls
Apart from the learning of domestic and other skills the mothers have noticed more general progress in the girls after their coming to the Centre.
One girls has dramatically improved her speech ability. Another girl, who previously was unable to part from her mother for even a minute, developed confidence to walk alone through crowded streets. Most of the girls have shown substantial physical improvement, with the lossening up of previously stiff arms and legs, due to exercise.
Overall the mothers have observed an increase in confidence and happiness among the girls and this in turn has improved the quality of life of the mothers.Sungava - A self supported Centre
The Centre sells cross-stich work, New Year cards, various paper decoration items, soft toys etc, produced by the girls undergoing training at this Centre. The proceeds from the sales is used to cover the expenses incurred in operating this Centre whenever necessary.
The rooms of the Training Centre are provided by Mrs. Subarna Keshari Chitrakar on her own property. However the two small rooms have grown small for the growing number of students in the institute. As for the increasing number of students, more number of classrooms are required and also a need for transportation is in demand for which we are seeking funds. (Bank contact: Nepal Bank Ltd., Bhtahity; S/Q 362 75/69 )Future Plans
Sungava has the following plans to expand its activities in the future:
1. To provide large accommodation so that more girls can be admitted on the programme. 2. To provide transport facilities so that girls can attend regularly and can come from farther away, (at the moment most of the girls are from the local area with one or two exceptions). 3. To establish a shop which can sell the things produced by the girls in order to help finance the Centre and to put some money directly into the girls' pockets. 4. To invest in the training of the mothers so that the range of skills they can teach is greater. 5. To invest in some simple equipment / machinery for the production of more complex products.
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