How do you improve self-reliance and healthy living practices in slum communities?

Today our group team from MIT and the Rai Foundation split up to gather data for our study on information tranfer within slum communities: two students went to IKV camp and J.J. camp and three of us went to an NGO school serving children from these communities. Last week and this week we have been studying patterns of information transer within the local slum communities as a function of gender and school-age vs. adult. Initial results show that 25% of the adults in the slums cannot read, but many are able to keep up with current events and entertainment through television. In the poorest slums, there is only limited access to public toilets and most families can only afford 2 meals a day and nevertheless most homes have televisions. About 80% of respondants proclaim TV as their preferred source of information. However, in the very poorest slums the women are so consumed by the hardships of daily life that they have no knowledge of current events / entertainment / politics - for example, one 32 year old women had never gone to school, could not read, owned neither a TV or a radio, and claimed she did not speak to anyone in her community or family about news or other new pieces of knowledge...the question we are trying to answer is how can we tailor information transfer about health and education to individual slumcommunities and specific demographics within these communities to improve their chances for self-reliance and healthy living?

Here are pictures from the NGO-run school located near several slums. These children's families have to pay for the uniforms and books themselves, which are expensive compared to the government schools (although there is still a large gap between the education at these schools and the education at private schools). Many of the girls are on partial scholarship so their families, who make about 4000 Rs-/month (or $1200/year), pay 50 Rs-/ a month (or ~$1.25) instead of about $5/month for boys. There are two reasons Deepalaya (the NGO) favors girls: 1.girls are the ones who will stay in the home and spread knowledge throughout the community (and hopefully send their children to school) and 2. girl-children are often denied the opportunity for education since the parents prefer to use their limited resources to educate their boy-children. Above is a picture of Julie and I from this morning with several boys from the 10th standard (~15 years old) and below three girls from the 9th standard (~14 years old) - in each class there are a number of young men and women who speak English very well. They were all incredibly friendly, curteous, and curious.

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