Gender Violence Programme Vacancy at Prajnya, deadline December 5

Programme Officer
The Prajnya Trust
Location: Chennai, India
Last Date: December 5, 2016
Email: jobs.prajnya@gmail.com

The Prajnya Trust is a Chennai based NGO working on women’s rights, women’s history, gender based violence and peace education. For almost a decade, our gender violence awareness and gender equality outreach programmes have engaged thousands across Chennai and beyond, facilitating conversations about violence, equality and justice.

We’re looking for a full time Programme Officer for the Gender Violence Research and Information Taskforce (GRIT) at Prajnya. This is a leadership position with tremendous learning and growth opportunities, with an inside view of social and policy sectors and the platform to make a real contribution to social change.

The Programme Officer will be primarily responsible for:

  • Planning, logistics and implementation of gender violence related programmes;
  • Sustaining existing GRIT processes (mainly training) and initiating new processes;
  • Interface with existing NGO, educational, government and corporate partners;
  • Identifying and building relationships with new partners for GRIT;
  • Research and writing projects about gender-based violence;
  • Documentation of all GRIT activities;
  • Media planning and social media management.

Essential qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in any subject;
  • Minimum 1- 2 years work experience in the development sector;
  • Passion for human rights and social justice work;
  • Excellent writing and drafting skills in English; Tamil is a bonus;
  • Ability to multi-task;
  • Essential that the person be a self-starter, highly motivated.

Preferred qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in a social science subject;
  • 2 to 3 years of work experience in the development sector.

Please note:

  • This is a Chennai-based position;
  • Fluency in spoken English and Tamil, and written English are essential.

All interested candidates must email their CVs, a writing sample and a brief covering note to jobs.prajnya@gmail.com by 5 December 2016. Remuneration will be based on experience.

Celebrating a milestone: Prajnya’s first full-time team member

Today is a momentous day in Prajnya’s history.

Our first full-time staff member joins us officially as Programme Officer for the Gender Violence Research and Information Taskforce. Ragamalika Karthikeyan will look after our research, public education and network-building activities in the gender violence awareness work that we do. Ragamalika has played a variety of roles in Prajnya, first as media coordinator for the 2013 Prajnya 16 Days Campaign against Gender Violence and since then in a voluntary capacity with programmes, training and communications. We are delighted to have someone in this role who already knows the domain; knows the organisation, its history and functioning style; comes to us with an array of useful skills and proven commitment to this work.

A year ago, we were not sure we would ever be able to hire a full-time person, even though we were clear that our survival as an organisation depended on it. That has become a possibility thanks to our first three Vasundhara donors: Sivakumar Surampudi, Ramesh Narayan and Ingrid Srinath. They have committed to supporting this position for three years, enabling us to consolidate our work in the area of gender violence awareness and gender equality. We are very grateful for their vision (realising that social change requires mundane appurtenances like salaries) and for their generosity. Most of all, we are grateful for their faith in us. They cannot imagine how grateful!

All these years, we have made plans and promises, but the vagaries of a volunteer team’s part-time availability have meant that our best efforts have still fallen short of our own aspirations. We begin a new journey today–one in which we will gradually professionalise the team in order to sustain our present work and to scale up a little. Our volunteers are still around, but we can finally shift some responsibility from their overburdened shoulders.

We will continue to need your support and encouragement in the time to come. Keep rooting for us!

Swarna’s note: What I really want to do is to insert a large dancing, partying, celebrating image here to share with you what a happy moment this is for us. This little piece of clipart will however have to do!

Birthdays

Invitation to Vasundhara, a special circle of Prajnya supporters

IMG_1027The Deccan Plateau with its lava-covered surfaces forms
some of the most stable land in India.
You can give us just such a stable base from which to work.

Prajnya is seeking the Founding Members of Vasundhara,
a special circle of supporters
who hold firm the ground beneath our feet.

For eight years, Prajnya has been a team of committed volunteers holding other jobs,
working with small individual donations,
doing what we could manage at the pace we could manage.

And we’ve managed:

  • a successful 16 Days Campaign against Gender Violence every year for six years;
  • scores of training sessions for gender violence awareness;
  • done almost a dozen oral history interviews;
  • curated three special photo-calls for the Prajnya Archives;
  • piloted a peace education programme;
  • created dozens of resources on gender equality and peace;
  • engaged actively on social networks as public education work;
  • interacted with thousands across Chennai on these critical issues.

But this is it. We’re at our inflection point.
Help write the trajectory of our future.

  • Will we be able to keep our promise to the community?
  • Will we be able to undertake gender violence sensitisation,
    training for policy compliance and public outreach across sectors
    commensurate with need and demand?
  • Will we be able to fulfil our research and communication mandate
    making information available to citizens who seek it?
  • Will we be able to create the synergistic partnerships
    that social change requires? 
  • Or will we turn away those who seek to work with us
    for want of human resources?

Where do we go from here?

A commitment by a dozen Vasundhara members to support us
with a gift of Rs. 100,000/- per year for three years
will allow us to hire a professional team—
will consolidate the ground beneath our feet.
So will YOU enable this journey and walk with us?

If you would like to join Vasundhara, do email (prajnyatrust@gmail.com).
Donations to Prajnya qualify for tax deduction under Section 80G of the Income Tax Act.

Roller coaster!

What a difference a year makes!

One year ago, Prajnya opened the year with great uncertainty. All our resources were shrinking in inverse proportion to our work and reach. That is, more and more people were interested in working with us on this and that, but we had fewer volunteers, available less and less, and were raising less money than before. For me, personally, the workload was overwhelming; the difficulty of neither being able to say yes or no to things that came our way very embarrassing; and the inability to keep my own professional life and identity (which are separate from Prajnya) alive had become a source of resentment and anxiety.

When we started the year last year, we did not know whether we would still be in existence at the end of the financial year. With these questions, we set an emotionally trying year in motion. I asked all the active volunteers to think about these questions realistically, and spent the year anxious, indecisive, agonizing and yes, grieving. Grieving, because this idea, this dream that began in my head looked like it was on its deathbed. How do you watch your child die? How do you choose euthanasia? For me, there were no easy choices.

All year long, I got advice–from partners, from donors, from friends in my professional network and Prajnya’s, from volunteers, from Board Members and of course, from Advisors. I listened carefully.

Each of them had a valid point to make. But over time, the advice began to hurt. For each one, this was a problem they were thinking about only for that brief period of time. For me, whichever way the year ended, this was going to be emotional, almost an organic wrench. Some people listened with horror when I suggested we might close, and said, “No, how on earth can you shut down?” I would resent that and think, “Well, are you going to come and do this work?” Others would say, “You should not make an emotional decision. You should shut down. There’s no shame in quitting.” And I would think, “It is an emotional decision either way. How easy to say, “Quit!”” It was getting harder to talk about this decision, and harder to talk about anything else while this huge sword was dangling over my head. I doubt anyone in my life or in Prajnya could imagine how hard this process has been for me.

Something else was happening. In the face of imminent death, it was hard to not do every single little thing that came our way. One last time. Just this once. Just in case we never could again. Giving it our all. In the face of shutting down, we wanted to max out our life, go out in style. The result was a very active, full year, of many pilot activities and many new partnerships. In April, we helped EroTICs India bring their “Connect Your Rights” workshop to Chennai. In August, we launched a Peace Club at the PSBB Millennium School, Gerukambakkam, refusing to let the Education for Peace Initiative die without one last shot at a life. We met the students thrice during the year, and they held follow-up activities to take the ideas in those sessions forward. At the end of the year’s sessions, they asked, “No Peace Club next year?” I did not have an answer. In September, all of Prajnya’s active volunteers and Board met to discuss Prajnya’s future. We took heart from each other’s enthusiasms, but walked away with big questions. In November, we brought the findings of Saakshi Fellow Linda Racioppi’s book to a media training on gender and disasters. We worked with two new partners–the All India Disaster Mitigation Institute and Oxfam India. The same information was carried into a briefing held at the Tamil Nadu State Planning Commission in December, just before the 10th anniversary of the tsunami. The 2014 16 Days Campaign was one of our most successful. Not only did we finally organise the “gender violence as a public health issue” programmes that we had always dreamt of–again going all out because it may be our last chance–but our decision to have 17 individuals adopt and lead the campaign turned out to be a great idea. It took the reach of our campaign well beyond what we could have done, and opened up new conversations, new spaces and new partnerships. Through the 16 days, we agreed to help with this idea or come in for that training, with me always wondering if we would be around to deliver. We decided to take each day as it came. In January, our women’s history and peace education work came together when we launched Women and Peace, a South Asia directory of organisations working on both women’s rights and peace. We revised our television screenwriters’ guide and shared it with the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council through a friend. In March, we launched the Prajnya Archives’ third call for entries, this time extending our call to stories and photos. Plus, we did workshops and training at old locations and new. All this with a team that rarely went over three people, excluding the brand new administrator!

January was a really difficult month. Decisions needed to be made quickly so that they could be implemented by the new financial year. But the writing was already appearing on the wall and I just needed the courage to read it aloud. In September, we had left that weekend of deliberations with three choices: to continue as we were, to shut down or to continue but with some big changes. At the end of the meeting, I knew this was nobody’s challenge and nobody’s problem as much as it was mine. It could not be. Working with volunteers meant that nobody could own this as much as they might like. I had to take this call alone. By January, I knew that whatever decision I made, I would have to live with it and implement it alone–while building a new professional community to carry on the work started by volunteers.

As I was saying that to myself, I knew what the campaign had underscored in bold red for me: Closing was not an option. September and my experience told me staying open on the old basis was not an option. So in February, I made the only decision I could.

As anyone who has read the story of the Amritmanthan knows, churning brings good and evil in equal measure. Sometimes they are identical, and what you see, depends on your viewpoint at a given moment.

The heartbreaking churning of last year yielded a very lonely decision, but one that I could make with a strong sense of accomplishment. I knew and had repeated the challenges like a litany for so many years that I had stopped noticing how much we were doing in spite of them. I remembered how we had started–with just words on paper and one person in a new city–but I had forgotten to acknowledge how far we had traveled. We dwelt on the imperfections of our work, but dismissed the reality that we’d still done many things that others with more resources had not thought of doing. We had celebrated so little that our collective sense of accomplishment was not enough to keep us going. And I had also forgotten the other things that are really important: that the only measure of ‘success’ is doing–if you do your best, you are successful; that every little bit counts; that you have to max out what you give–to others and also to yourself; that, really, each of us walks alone.

So I took the decision: to keep Prajnya open, but using the campaign sabbatical this year to professionalise the team and transition from working primarily with volunteers. Our old volunteers will be around and we will need new ones, but we will move away from depending primarily on them and towards having full-time team members.

This means, we open the year with fund-raising as our main plan for the first part of this fiscal year. We are launching three categories of fundraising initiatives:

  1. A “Fun Fundraising” project, our equivalent of a Small Savings Scheme, to raise money from individual to support activities.
  2. A special outreach to Indians living abroad to cover the costs of our office and administration.
  3. The launch of a circle of special donors who will help us finance two professional positions by the end of the year.

This is not going to be easy, but it has to be done. I hope that everyone who has stood by us for the last eight and a half years will continue to do so. This work does not belong to one person or a small group of people. It belongs to all of us.

As I began to communicate this decision to the team, we got word that FICCI Ladies’ Organisation, Chennai, had decided to recognise our work in their annual awards list. The appreciation came as an endorsement of this tough decision, and encouragement to enter this new phase bravely.

I start this new year feeling very positive about what we have accomplished, and about what we have the potential to do. For every negative thought or every pessimistic view we have heard or expressed, there is a defiant, obstinate positivity in my heart at this moment. I have made this decision fully aware that it is not going to be easy to implement, even as I reclaim time for myself personally and professionally. But I know we cannot walk away. We have to do this. This is the right thing to do. That conviction makes 2015-16 an exciting rather than a daunting year.

First steps, first images

On May 2, 2014, we took the first steps towards moving into the new workspace we are borrowing from the Shree Ayurvedic Multispecialty Hospital. This photograph, taken at the end of the small get-together insisted on being posted first! So, here’s who was present!

may 2 7

may 2 1We entered by pasting a laminated A4 sheet with our logo and name in three scripts on the door of the room. (We did it paste it straight, rest assured!)

You can get a sense of the room from these photos of us standing around and chatting. may 2 2 may 2 3 may 2 4

 

Our long-time host and supporter, Shyamala Rajagopalan, lit a tea-light placed in an old Diwali diya, and that was our moving-in ceremony!

may 2 5

 

 

This was followed by the distribution of sweets. Glasses of mango juice prepared us to step back out into the Chennai heat.

may 2 6And this is me lighting a sambrani ‘dhoop’. Hope light, fragrance and a happy team are always the hallmark of the work we do in this room and elsewhere.

“All I want is a room somewhere”

When you get to see this post, Prajnya will be taking its first tentative steps outside the small, narrow room that has been our home so far. Oh, that remains our registered office and we will still work there, but we are getting to borrow some workspace in another location. As this post appears, we will be in that space for the first time, filling it with our hopes, our dreams and a lot of positivity. (And yes, our many accumulated belongings!)

This is a big step for us, and we take it with great trepidation.

There are many things we are not sure of. Funding is the biggest one. Human resources remain a challenge. It’s been a very anxious two weeks, too anxious to even be excited about this move. Is this the right thing to do? Is this the right time? I don’t really know.

But yesterday, I remembered: Not knowing is normal, right? It’s life. And every now and then, you just have to close your eyes and jump. We did that when we started Prajnya. We did it with the first quiz and the first campaign. At every turn, we had no way of knowing how it would turn out and we haven’t done too badly on the whole.

Reading the generosity of our new hosts as a good sign, we are stepping off the ledge. Wish us luck!

As for me, each time this impossible dream of mine turns another corner, my heart fills with so many thoughts and words that I can barely distinguish them to write. I cannot completely believe what I see. It’s as if I watch things unfold, surprised. I am not excited as much as awed. How can something that began in my head have become so real?

And the answer, as always is, because it has become the dream and the mission of so many others–those who volunteer, those who donate, those who participate, those who partner with us and those who learn of our efforts and wish us well.

These are incredible moments, made possible by friends like you. Please savour them with us.

In sum: Half-empty or half-full?

We launched our 2013 fundraising drive on April 14, 2013 with a target of Rs. 300,000/- (3 lakhs).

As we closed yesterday, on a preliminary tally, we had received Rs. 177002/- in 15 individual donations and one corporate donation. That makes up about 59% of our target.

We remain short of 41%. Of course, the end of the “fundraising drive period” does not mean people cannot and will not donate after this. But what it does mean is that we will have to trim our sails somewhat and that we will come around once more in a few months with a begging-bowl. Please bear with us then.

Notwithstanding the disappointment of the fundraising deficit, it means a lot to us that so many people cared enough to take the time and effort to see what they could spare and share for our work. People ask who funds us, and we are proud to say our work belongs to you–our immediate community–and through you to the larger community in which we live and where we seek to bring change.

Thank you for your faith and support! It’s what keeps us going.

Grey skies. Are sunny fundraising days past?

This week, we received only Rs. 2000/- in donation. Only, that is, in relation to our goal which is hopelessly distant.

But it’s a precious 2000, not just because every rupee counts and every donation is an expression of support, but because it comes in memory of a childhood friend who passed away too, too early. Perhaps it will bring us luck in this coming week, the last week of this fundraising drive.

Happier news, though from Neela Thaamara: Lots of people have been asking about the bags, and orders are now coming in. They did not print too many, though, so if you want one, place your order today.

And no, even if all the bags sell, we will still be way short of our target, INR 300,000/- (3 lakhs). So if you can help us find a few large donations to cover the distance, we would be very grateful. This year’s 16 Days Campaign against Gender Violence and several other projects hang in the balance in the meanwhile. Please help!

Blue lotuses in our garden!

ntb1Neela Thaamara, a Kurnool-based business, owned by our friend Kavitha Reddy (who gifted us those lovely dupattas for our fifth birthday!) will share proceeds from the sale of some lovely shopping cum book bags with Prajnya.

The bags are available in nine designs and cost just Rs. 250/- each. You can order them directly from Neela Thaamara at neelathaamara1@gmail.com. They’d be useful anywhere and make great gifts.

We love the bags and have posted photos here. But you can also see them at Neela Thaamara‘s FB page.