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

Monday, February 17, 2014

Weekend in Amritsar and Wagah Border

On Saturday we had dinner at our local consultant Jaspreet's, parents house. They had an amazing spread of food for us.  It was very delicious and was great to spend time with a Ludhiana family.
Me with Jaspreet and his parents
The spread at Jaspreet's parents house

We also went shopping for sarees at Bombay Creations.  We sat and had tea while the consultant showed us many different saree fabrics.  I finally chose one and will share it once it is delivered to the hotel!

Saree shopping at Bombay Creations
Cathy, Alessandra, and I with the owner of Bombay Creations
On Sunday, we drove 3 hours to Amritsar, where the Golden Temple is located.  The Golden Temple is a holy temple for Sikhs. 
Golden Temple
Eating Langar (community food) at the Golden Temple

Then we drove to the Wagah Border, the only border crossing into Pakistan.   They have a ceremony where Indian and Pakistani border forces do a ceremony with high kicks.  The ceremony is full of national pride from both sides, and is an interesting display of passive-aggressive celebration.

Wagah Border Ceremony (India/Pakistan)

Word of the day: gurdwara - place of worship for sikhs (gateway to the guru)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Meeting the LSRM Families

This week, we developed our methodology and approach for a needs assessment for a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program focused on girls education.  Phase 1 of the program is understanding how Ludhiana Steel Rolling Mills (LSRM) can best serve the needs of its employees girl children.  Our approach is three-fold: 1) survey 40 employees with girl children, 2) conduct in-depth interviews with 5 employees, the employees' girl children, and the employee wives, and 3) conduct focus groups with employees and 2 NGOs that focus on education.
Peter and Rajeev, our client counterpart, surveying an LSRM employee about girls education
Yesterday we visited a couple of the employee's families from the Ludhiana Steel Rolling Mills.  It was both a very awesome and humbling experience.  The families were incredibly welcoming and open to talk to us about girl's education and challenges girls face.  Both families we visited mentioned that they believe the state of Punjab values girls education more than other states, which was interesting to hear.
Lukas, me, Ruchy, Rolly, and the mother posing with our gifts.  The third daughter, Rani, was playing outside.
These two families were some of the medium-lower paid employees, but were very proud of their daughters and said that education brings pride to a family.   Both families sent all of their girl children to school.  They also told us they were planning to send their girls to school through senior secondary school (12th grade high school equivalent), and hopefully on to university.  One family had a son and told us they wanted both the son and daughter to receive equal levels of education.  From a girl's education perspective, our visits were very encouraging.
Interviewing Rolly, the 13 year old daughter of an LSRM employee
From everyone we have talked to so far, some challenges with girls education in India include:
- early marriage (by age 15 or 16)
- safety traveling to school (someone needs to accompany them)
- cultural belief that girls are not as valuable as boys (some families will send their boy to school and not their girl or not give a girl and boy the same level of education)
- cultural view that girls are a burden on a family (the family is expected to pay a dowry to the husband's family before marriage, which makes it more expensive to have a girl)

In addition, India's education system has its own challenges, such as shortage of teachers, inconsistent quality of teachers, and a grade attainment gap (i.e. 5th graders reading at a 2nd grade level).

Interestingly enough (and unlike Tanzania), money does not seem to be the largest barrier to education.  Low income families definitely have to make sacrifices, but it is not completely out of reach for their children, and especially girls, to go to school.  The families we interviewed told us that there are expenses (books, uniform, etc) and sometimes nominal school fees associated with education, but the government of India has lowered, and in some cases, waived these fees for girl children to promote girls education.  In addition, there are government programs and other organizations that provide support for families that cannot support their children (both boys and girls) to go to school.

Even so, if LSRM could give scholarships or provide another educational program to its employees to promote their girl children to go to school, they could not only relieve some of the financial burden of education, but also show their employees that if LSRM values girls education, they should too.
Lukas, Peter, and I with Pratam, Priyanka, and the mother of another LSRM family
LSRM wants to focus first on supporting the education of their employees' girl children, so part of our needs assessment is figuring out how to best serve these girls.  We have found that some of the employees are migrants, so their families live very far away.  Others still hold some of the cultural views discouraging girls education.  We are working to find a way to bridge as many gaps as possible so we can achieve LSRM's CSR mission!

Word of the day: ap ka nam kya hai - what is your name?

#ibmcsc #india22

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Food, Clothing, and Weddings

We have been having some pretty awesome food in Ludhiana.  Yesterday we had sugar cane juice on the street and today we tried gol gappa, a round hollow crisp filled with spicy water and a mix of potato, spices, onion, chickpeas, etc.  For lunch, we eat food from the canteen at the manufacturing facility every day for lunch and it is delicious.  There is so much variety - I think if I lived in India I could become vegetarian.  We also tried a fruit called jujube (which I previously only knew of the candy) and an eggplant dish.  Last night we ate at a local restaurant and had sarsonkasaag, a mustard plant dish that is only available in the winter and early spring.  We also had mushroom mitari, dahi bhalla, and paneer masala.  
Our meal last night
 Today for lunch one of the workers brought us sarsonkasaag from their home and we also had aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower) with basmati rice.  Most meals come standard with an onion, radish, and tomato salad as well. For dinner, we went to a local market and had a dosa, which is like a crepe stuffed with paneer (cheese), potato, tomato, and spices.
Eating dosa at the market
The outdoor market with lots of food stalls
A couple days ago I went shopping for kurtas, the tunic type shirts that most women wear to work here in Punjab.  I bought a short kurta and a tunic version as well as some of the special pants to wear on more formal occasions.  I also went shopping for a sari, but soon realized that sari shopping is an experience that deserves more time.  Many women will go shopping for a sari for multiple hours and sit in the sari shop drinking a cup of tea while the men in the shop model the sari material for them.  I was so impressed by how much pride the men took in carefully assembling the sari.  I decided to postpone my sari shopping until I have a couple hours to go back for the real experience.

The man at the sari store showing me how the sari would fit
Speaking of saris, it is wedding season!  A lot of women here wear a Punjab version of a sari to weddings since it is a little colder here.  Since we are staying at a relatively upscale hotel, we have had some sort of wedding related ceremony every night since we have been here.  Everyone gets dressed up in very colorful and beautiful dresses and decorates the banquet halls very elaborately.  Last night there were 2 separate ring ceremonies and tonight there was a shagun ceremony, a type of engagement party in accordance with Punjabi wedding customs.  I am trying to get myself invited to a wedding so I can wear a sari!

That's all for now....more soon about our work with Ludhiana Steel Rolling Mills!

Word of the day: yar - friend