Women without Borders (WwB) rolled out the first Indian iteration of its ‘MotherSchools: Parenting for Peace’ programme in five vulnerable communities across Mewat between 2013 and 2014. WwB MotherSchools engaged 96 mothers across 8 groups in the villages of Salamba, Satputiyaka, Khedla (two groups), Tain (two groups), and Nuh (two groups) between October 2013 and February 2014. MotherSchools in Mewat provided a trusted space for mothers in the community, many of whom have had limited opportunities to voice their concerns among their peers. In the course of the programme, the Mewati participants gained greater self-confidence and self-awareness, and they developed a deeper understanding of how to apply the learnings from WwB’s MotherSchools curriculum in their households and neighbourhoods. Recognising the need to bring the project’s successes and the stories of its recent graduates to the attention of the wider community, WwB and its local partner supplemented the programme with the ‘MotherSchools on Air’ community radio initiative, thus spreading awareness of the insights and issues to some two hundred Mewati villages.

Mewat is a remote, and an economically and culturally isolated, part of India situated near New Delhi and Gurgaon. The region has a Muslim majority population where Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic movement that has been linked to violent extremist groups, previously gained ground. The movement succeeded in capitalising on widespread poverty and low literacy rates, which has contributed to the female population being confined to their homes; many of them have never left their villages, let alone boarded a bus. At male to female population and literacy ratios of 1000:906 and 7:3 respectively, Meo women by no means are a minority but nevertheless are afforded far fewer opportunities to become independent and have a say in private and public decisions. Fieldwork interviews revealed that they feel overwhelmed by the lack of respect for their gender, and by the everyday violence with which they are confronted in their homes and communities. The region more generally has been viewed as vulnerable to extremist influences. Most notably, one of the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attacks (commonly referred to as 26/11) is suspected to have been recruited from Mewat.

Seeking to break this cycle of isolation on the one hand, and to tackle domestic violence and violent extremism by building up the confidence and skills to harness the security potential of the female population on the other hand, Women without Borders (WwB) rolled out the first Indian iteration of its ‘MotherSchools: Parenting for Peace’ programme in vulnerable areas across Mewat. With the support of US Department of State and SMART, as local implementing partner, WwB MotherSchools engaged 96 mothers across 8 groups in the villages of Salamba, Satputiyaka, Khedla (two groups), Tain (two groups), and Nuh (two groups) between October 2013 and February 2014.

MotherSchools in Mewat provided a trusted space for mothers in the community, many of whom have had limited opportunities to voice their concerns among their peers. In the course of the programme, the Mewati participants gained greater self-confidence and self-awareness, and they developed a deeper understanding of how to apply the learnings from WwB’s MotherSchools curriculum in their households and neighbourhoods. Against the background of widespread poverty and limited prospects, the mothers welcomed from the outset the opportunity to gain an education that could help to anchor their children and steer them in the right direction. A number of attendees had never received a formal education prior to their participation in the MotherSchools programme. WwB’s ‘Parenting for Peace’ philosophy proved to resonate with the mothers. They demonstrated great enthusiasm for acquiring skills and knowledge that promised to improve a mother’s relationships with her adolescent children and position them as local security actors.

For many participants, the MotherSchools offered a platform to speak and be heard in a group setting for the first time in their lives. Following the completion of a number of cycles, WwB recognised the need to bring the MotherSchools programme’s successes and the stories of its recent graduates to the attention of the wider community. WwB thus continued its work with its LIP to supplement the programme with the ‘MotherSchools on Air’ community radio initiative. In September 2014, WwB and its local partner co-organised a training at the Austrian Embassy in New Delhi for grassroots reporters and participants from the first MotherSchools cycle in Mewat. They were taught to record their learnings, messages, and individual narratives for dissemination via the radio programme. The radio signal covered a twenty-five-kilometre radius and reached some two hundred villages.

While WwB’s weekly MotherSchools meetings provided the content for the programme, SMART made available the necessary equipment and offered technical training. Two reporters attended the subsequent WwB MotherSchools cycles to record additional material, and participants also came by the radio station or gave phone interviews. The combined efforts of WwB and its LIP resulted in two weekly radio programmes. Each episode had a unique theme, featured between seven and eight mothers, and left sufficient time for listeners to call in with questions. This initiative succeeded in amplifying MotherSchools successes by continuing to empower the participants’ voices and helping to address taboo topics while challenging patriarchal structures at the local level.

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