Katha is an NGO that works in the field of community development, child welfare, education and literature. The commendable grassroots work done by Katha is also aided by some great stories and books that they publish. A new series of books, have supergirls take on a mission of cleanliness and hygiene.
Bookedforlife converses with Geeta Dharmarajan, Founder President and Editor, Katha, to know more:
The issues that the books deal with are general and applicable to both genders (including the one on menstruation, and so on). However, I understand the series has been specifically designed for girls. Is there any way you would also take it to the boys?
Girls hold up only half the sky! But they do hold up HALF the sky, which is something that we all forget! So, the books are meant for girls and boys so they can equally participate in working together to build a fair, free and fearless world of the future. Yes, the books have social and environmental issues that are meant for both boys and girls to take into their communities. All these books have ideas that will help young people work towards positive social and behavioural changes. Katha is strong on community action and believes that children can be agents of change as they learn about big ideas.
The books are rooted in the idea of (SHE)2 – double girl power! (SHE)2 stands for Safe water and Sanitation. Health and Hygiene. Education and Empowerment. If we want girl power, boy empowerment is equally important. This we know!
Katha has been working with children, on the (SHE)2 ideas in our low income communities. We know, in Katha, that empowerment does not come without knowledge, and the demand from within. Many times, India thinks that by giving we achieve targets. Yes, maybe to show others, but if we want real change, then the demand should come first before governmental or non-governmental supply. And, this means hard work which Katha has not been afraid to do.
For instance, a narrative like Dabba Dol has boys as the protagonists and other stories are intended to raise environmental awareness, understanding and promote a clean and healthy environment. For the very specific stories which deal with female health and hygiene and matters, such as menstruation – yes, we think that these issues can be introduced and discussed in a co-ed classroom but this would also require a sensitive approach on the part of the teacher and a healthy environment that promotes discussions among boys and girls.
Who is the target audience for the books?
Girls and boys, from classes one to twelve, both rural and urban from varied socio-economic backgrounds and communities. The books are designed to bring about behavioural changes through a discussion about and reflection over Big Ideas. The books foster and inspire positive social changes within communities.
Are the books to be purchased individually or as a collection?
They can be bought separately, or as a set.
Each book is meant for a certain age group — starting with Supergirls Play A Trick, which introduces young readers to the whys and the how’s of taking care of their bodies. Written in very simple imaginative language, the book uses vivid illustrations, big font size and few words to a page. The second book, Supergirls Make A Difference, fosters the basics of personal hygiene, ways to stay healthy, through playful stories and poems. Supergirls Lead The Way, the third book, gives a practical plan and tips for making things happen in a village/community! Last but not the least, the fourth book, Supergirls Find A Solution moves young readers towards finding a solution themselves instead of waiting for government or elders to make their lives better. Each book has a section at the back that rests on our StoryPedagogy.
The Think, Ask questions, Discuss and Act leading to ACTIVISM, is a special teaching tool of Katha that takes forward our bold and singular idea that children can be the change when surrounded by Big Idea books and people.
However, it would make sense to purchase them as a collection – and take young readers on a journey of exploration on health and environmental sustainability. The series comes with a Teachers’ Action Guide, to help SuperGirls explore big ideas. The Handbook contains plenty of tips for teachers to keep children keep engrossed by way of TA-DAA! (Think, Ask, Discuss, Act and ACTION!) activities and experiments to do at home and in schools.
Are translations available or are the books only in English?
All the books, including the teacher’s manual, are available in English, Hindi and Telugu. We hope to soon do the Bangla and Tamil versions also.
Many of our readers who work with children may find it interesting to use these books as teaching aids. Would you like to share any tips or suggestions that they should keep in mind?
I would recommend The Teachers’ Handbook is for every teacher who wants to encourage her class towards self-empowered action. Designed with specific sections for mentors in primary, middle and high school, it has varied tips and suggestions for teachers, educators and school health assistants to implement the Katha’s (SHE)2 Big Ideas. We all need to push governments to act for us citizens, and this series, like most other Katha Think Books, does just that!
Can you talk about the process of curation for the material that is included in the book? It has a very interesting mix of stories, poems, Indian folk art and case studies…
A good deal of thought and hard work has gone into the making of this series. Moreover, action research is an ongoing process at Katha while curating content. To go back to the beginning of the project: a team from Katha had visited villages in Chittoor to do their research and better understand the lives of girls in the area. Our Katha members engaged in ethnographic research via participant observation. During the research process, the Katha members interacted with several teachers and students and heard their stories. Armed with actual knowledge of practices like open defecation, scarcity of water, unavailability of sanitary napkins, and lack of education about health and hygiene we chose the topics and then wrote the stories, poems and case studies.
Katha has been consciously using folk art drawings and paintings for a long time. The feature of Indian folk art is probably a constant feature in Katha books. For the WASH series, Indian folk art has been carefully aligned to make individual stories, poems and narratives a cohesive and holistic reading experience for our readers across India.
With the short and impactful text and powerful illustrations the series will find great application. India is at the cusp of change. It seems that the need of such books is perhaps more pertinent than ever!
TAKE A LOOK AT THE SUPERGIRLS SERIES: