Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Back to where it all began...

Our first night in Ludhiana, Peter, Lukas, and I spent a long time in the business center printing presentation slides.  To set the stage, one computer had no internet, the other had no mouse.  I ended up using the computer with internet but no mouse to pull up our first presentation for the CEO, Mr. Jain.  An hour later, using keyboard shortcuts, and rolling the printer on a rolling chair to get close enough to connect it to our computer, we were finally able to print the presentation.

Our first night in the business center (the printer is sitting on a chair)

Now, on the night before our last day at Ludhiana Steel Rolling Mills, we were back in the business center for the second time, frantically trying to print our final report.  It seemed only appropriate that we would end our time here!  Previous printing attempts at other shops had not worked out for various reasons and we had run out of time and options.  Luckily, this time was much easier than the first thanks to a thumb drive and a couple of hotel staff that helped us manually print 2 copies of our 100 page report double sided!

Our final report!
The next morning, we got our final report bound at a local copy shop before presenting it to Mr. Jain, the LSRM CEO.  We recapped the presentation from the day before.  Mr. Jain is ready to begin the program and implement many of our recommendations right away - we were so impressed!

Binding our final report at the local copy shop
Mr. Jain reading our final report in his office

Our final powerpoint presentation the day before went very well.  Mr. Jain and about 12 other people, including Shruti, LSRM employees, and even an LSRM employee's 21 year old daughter interested in learning more about the program, attended our presentation.  After we presented each slide, Rajeev translated into Hindi so that everyone would be able to understand our presentation, which made our presentation pretty long.  In a culture where taking calls and leaving the room are common practice during presentations, we were so impressed that everyone stayed for our whole 1.5 hour presentation!  
Closing the presentation with Rajeev preparing to translate
After the presentation, we had a brief discussion and Mr. Jain then announced that the program would begin the following week!  We were so excited! 

Attendees at our final presentation
We are so thankful and appreciative to work with LSRM and really feel like we have made an impact that will benefit LSRM's CSR objectives AND benefit girls education in the Ludhiana community.  We have also made many friends that we will stay in touch with for many years to come!  Thanks to Mr. Jain, Rajeev, and everyone at LSRM!
Our last day at LSRM with many of the staff
Final day in Mr. Jain's office
Word of the day:balika shikshanam - girl child education

#ibmcsc #india22

Last week in Ludhiana!

The program that we will be presenting is the Balika Shikshanam program (girl education in Hindi).  More about the program in my last post.

Quick commentary on naming: We learned that a lot of people in India first think about the Sanskrit translation (the classical language of Hinduism) of a certain meaning to name their children.  Rajeev mentioned that he went through the same process to come up with our program name, so the program has a more formal name rather than a literal Hindi translation.  I thought this was a very culturally appropriate nuance!
Company sign outside the plant
During our last week, we visited another family and a school to understand costs of education.  We also gave each family we visited a framed picture of our visit to their home - they were all very excited! 
Presenting an employee with a framed picture from our home visit
 Most of our week was spent preparing for the final presentation and compiling the final report, but we did attend a hotel sponsored goodbye dinner with the regional manager of our hotel chain, which was very nice and generous of the hotel. 

With the regional manager of our hotel at the hotel dinner
 We also got a chance to walk around the plant again to take some pictures (see below).  We could feel the heat from the hot steel and was surrounding by lots of loud machines - such an active environment to be in!
Workers moving the steel to another rolling machine
Where they size the steel
Quality control checking out steel samples
Finished goods ready for transport

 Word of the day: chalo - let's go

Friday, February 28, 2014

Bhangra, Swabhimaan, and Shivratri

This week has gone by so fast!

We have been working hard at LSRM and are ready to put together our final recommendations and report for next week's presentation.  We also visited another LSRM family to learn more about the cost of education in Punjab.

Meeting an LSRM family in their town of Sarhind
On Wednesday night, we took a Bhangra/Bollywood class with Footloose dance and yoga studio.  We learned some pretty awesome moves - I think we are ready for our IBM CSC bhangra debut!  Check out the video our instructor posted of us :)
Bollywood dancing

Bhangra dancing
On Thursday, we celebrated Shivratri, a Hindu festival celebrating one of their deities, Lord Shiva.  We went to a parade and temple, and even received holy water from the Ganges river!

Parade - can you spot the snake?
With our holy water
Musicians at the parade
The Hindu temple on Shivratri
Looking at the temple
On Friday, we volunteered at a Swabhimaan school for a fun day of educational activities.  Swabhimaan focuses on providing education to children living BPL (below the poverty line).  We have a team of IBMers working with Swabhimaan NGO and they did a great job organizing the event! The children rotated between our activity stations.  Kazu and I teamed up to do origami - we taught the students how to make a dog and fortune teller.  It was so much fun to hang out and play with the kids - it was a great end to the week!
With the teachers at Swabhimaan school
Students with their certificates
Rajeev with the students and their origami dogs
Kazu with one of the students

Word of the day: thika - ok

#ibmcsc #india22

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Weekend in Shimla

This weekend we went to Shimla, the capital of the state of Himachal Pradesh.  It is a popular tourist destination and also known for the Kalka-Shimla Railway, a UNESCO heritage site.  It also has amazing views of the Himalyan foothills.

View of the Himalayans from the Hanuman temple
We first hiked up to Jakhoo Temple, a Hindu temple with a statue of the Hindu god, Hanuman.   There were a lot of monkeys hanging out and waiting to find someone with food.  I even saw a monkey steal glasses off of a lady's face!
statue of Hanuman

Dmytro, Peter, Lukas, and I in front of Hanuman

All the monkeys at Hanuman Temple
 We got our tickets at the train station and posed with the elephant conductor :)
Cristian and I with the train station and elephant conductor
 We also stopped by another temple with very pretty bells and amazing views of the Himalayan foothills.
At another temple in Shimla
We spent the day walking around Shimla, which was a picturesque town with lots of shops and restaurants, British architecture and pedestrian walkways.  
Monkey climbing out of the trash

Streets of Shimla

A local Shimla man with some monkeys

On Sunday morning we rode on the Kalka-Shimla Railway for about 3 hours, which had beautiful scenery of the Himalayan foothills and towns.
Cathy, Peter, and I on the Kalka-Shimla Railway
A view of the train
Back to work tomorrow!

Word of the day: dhaba - a group of street food vendors

#ibmcsc #india22

Friday, February 21, 2014

Exploring Ludhiana and Finishing Data Collection

This week has been filled with exploring Ludhiana, getting advice from local NGOs, and enjoying the company of many LSRM employees and families.
We visited a shop where some of the IBMers got suits and shirts tailored.  There were workers there hand beading women's Punjabi suits.  Some of us took a walk around to visit shops.  

Workers hand beading women's Punjabi suits
I am still looking for Harry Potter in Hindi to add to my collection of Harry Potters in different languages.  I have yet to find it in any bookshops, but I heard about a market in Ludhiana where they may have it.  We also went to the Adidas store, which was filled with about 20% Chicago Bulls gear. 
I even found a Michael Jordan phone!
  We also stopped at the one post office in Ludhiana, where I got some cool stamps to add to my collection.  Also, confirming the fact that there are many Punjabis living in Canada, the post office was advertising 3 day service from Punjab to Canada.  They also told us at the post office that they don't have a way to send postcards to foreign countries, so anyone that receives a postcard may get it in an envelope :).
My new stamps!
More stamps from Indian cinema

Must be lots of Punjabis living in Canada!
We also went to a grocery store called Easy Day, which reminded me of an Indian version of Walmart. They had very cheap kurtis (women's tunics) and I bought a bunch of Indian sweets for our team room at the hotel.  The store also had a whole section devoted to Holi items (March 17th), including every kind of water gun, bottles of colored paint, and water balloons, which are used to put the colors in and throw at people. 

Everyone is getting ready for Holi!

 We ended the week on a high note, which included our last family visit to an LSRM employee family.  This was the family that had the lowest income, but made many sacrifices to allow the two older children (boy and girl) to go to school.  The parents were very motivated to improve their lives and to send all of their children to school.  It was clear that the children were part of a very loving family.  The daughter in school told us that she loves school and believes getting an education will allow her to get a good job (she wants to be a doctor) and help her family.
Peter, Lukas, and I with the LSRM family, including Bina, the 9 year old girl child.

Word of the day: pet bhargya - I'm full!

#ibmcsc #india22

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Focus Groups and Home Visits

The past couple of days we have spent interviewing employee families and focus groups.  Yesterday we had a focus group with a local NGO, Swabhimaan, which is also hosting an IBM CSC consultant team.  They had a very inspirational vision (equality and education for all, turning a liability into an asset through education).  It was a great discussion and gave my LSRM team a lot to think about in terms of potential models and options for furthering girls education.  I think there is potential for Swabhimaan to work with LSRM in the future.
The LSRM and Swabhimaan teams during our Focus Group
This morning, we had a focus group with a set of LSRM employees to understand more about their views on education and challenges girls face in education.  They gave us some good ideas on how to help employee children.

Focus Group with LSRM Employees
 This afternoon, we visited two more LSRM families.  The families were very gracious hosts and it was great to sit in their homes and talk with them about their children's education.

What has been consistent across focus groups and interviews is that most people agree that India's view on girls education is changing.  While many of the employees and families agree that infanticide of girl babies still exists and some groups (gypsies, extremely poor) have orthodox beliefs that devalue girls and education, they generally believe that girls and boys should receive equal levels of education.  It is very encouraging to hear this consistently. 
Spending time with an LSRM family and 4 of their 6 children, including Ragni (14) and Saloni (8)
This change is evident in the Annual Status of Education (ASER) Report published by Pratham, an Indian NGO.  The report for the state of Punjab shows that boys and girls are generally receiving a basic education up to age 14.  The table below shows that the % for girls and boys not in school is almost the same from ages 7-14.  Only until ages 15-16 does the % for out of school girls change to 11.8% and for boys 8.3%.

Some of the reasons we have heard for why this % drastically changes (and additionally the gap between boys and girls grows) are: 1) view that parents feel girls (and sometimes boys) have received enough education and can then drop out of school, 2) girls are needed to help out at home with household work or get a job (and boys are sometimes needed to earn $$ as well), 3) early marriage (money is then starting to be saved for dowry rather than education), and 4) parents do not feel it is safe for the girl to go to school anymore because they will start getting harassed by teachers and boys.
Another LSRM family and their 3 daughters, including Sapna (8)
Contrary to my previous post, we are also seeing that money actually IS a barrier to education even though the government often provides education, supplies, etc at a very nominal cost.   This is evident especially in very low-income families where the parents do not have much education themselves, there are many children (both boys and girls), and the family struggles to meet their basic needs.  For example, a low income family may not be able to afford to send all six children to school and sometimes require an older daughter to stay home to help care for the younger children.  The parents are not able to secure stable jobs and are always worrying about money for the family's next meal rather than focusing on their children's education.

Interviewing the mother of an LSRM family
This week we are gathering LOTS of data and will start to analyze the data later this week and start forming recommendations for LSRM's CSR program.  Stay tuned....

Word of the day: Namaste - Hello

#ibmcsc #india22