In celebration of International Day of the Girl, our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, interviewed the heads of a very special school in India. What she learned and felt was nothing short of amazing…
I was ushered in, inside the Vice-Principal’s room when I expressed my desire to interview both, the VP and the Head-Mistress. It was a completely relaxed chat, and I was so surprised about the open-door policy embraced by this school for all its teachers and students. All my prepared interview questions flew out of my head as they talked about the school, the students and their passion for teaching.
Mrs. Bhavani Baskar, The Vice-Principal (left) and Mrs. Jayashree Subramanian, Head-Mistress (right) of the PSBB Millennium School
During the chat, I observed so many students and teachers, and other staff members of the school, knocking and walking in with something or the other which needed either the Vice Principal’s or Head mistress’ intervention. No, you don’t need any appointment to go and say ‘Hello’ to them. None of the students did.
And as we proceeded to chat, I became more surprised and awed at the way they addressed students on a first name basis, from various grades who had popped in for a chat. Who could remember so many names? They did!
It has been a great pleasure to chat with Mrs. Bhavani Baskar, The Vice Principal and Mrs. Jayashree Subramanian, the head Mistress of PSBB Millennium School in Chennai, India. They spoke about their teaching journey, their vision for girls and boys in the school and the murals. It was the murals which sparked my curiosity and led me into their doorway. I included picture of them throughout the interview below, and I hope you find them as beautiful, as I did! Now on to the interview…
What inspired the murals? Who did them?
Initially, we got a palm imprint from all the girls of the school to say, “I am proud of being a girl.” The boys of the school wanted to join, too, to say, “We respect you.” This was done to celebrate the “Day of the Girl Child.”
These murals were an extension of the same theme.
The senior students were encouraged to paint the walls sharing their thoughts on being a girl, and the boys also joined, to express how they felt about their girl-classmates. The result was the lovely messages that came across on the walls.
Mother Earth Needs Her Daughters
What was the effect of the murals?
They are receiving a lot of attention. The occurrences of boys teasing girls has reduced considerably. Bullying is also greatly reduced. Respect between the genders has increased. The general attitude has improved.
These murals are painted at the backdrop of the playground, and all the children at some point in time look at them at least once a day. And whether they want to or not, they have to acknowledge their presence consciously or subconsciously. Children right from grade 1 to 12 share the playground and so they would look at them. They would talk about them. And it would create an impact as to how girls are viewed.
The murals affect the thought process of both the boys and girls as they grow up. Boys would respect girls and girls would grow up to be secure, and confident in this society.
Girls Make The World Bright, But Struggle To See The Light
What is the % of boys and girls in the school?
Boys beat girls by being 54% and girls are 46%. But this is still a great ratio for the state where female infanticide is rampant in the rural areas.
Let Me See The World
Can you comment about the performance of the girls and boys in the school?
Girls always out-beat boys! They are more sincere, they are meticulous in their planning and definitely more hardworking.
Do Not Let My Life End
They also spoke about their respective personal teaching career and their journey in the school. Mrs. Bhavani Baskar, the Vice Principal joined as a Mathematics teacher and now in addition to her duties as a Vice Principal, she continues teaching Mathematics for Grade 12. She is also the HOD for the Math department. She has more than 20 years of teaching experience in mathematics, and she is passionate about it.
Girls Are Great, Nurture Their Fate
Mrs. Jayashree Subramanian, the Head Mistress is also the HOD of the Social Science department. She also manages dual responsibilities and says she would never trade the joy she finds in teaching for anything. When I asked about her retirement, she says, she is a grandmother, too, and would love to go and spend time with her grandchild. But she feels strongly attached to the school, the children, and even to the principal.
A Girl Child Today, A Mother One Day
The Principal of the PSBB Millennium School, Mrs. Sita Uma Maheswaran also had a few words for World Moms Blog in spite of her very busy schedule. The below conversation is from the Principal.
Do you feel like there is a true cultural shift taking place to recognize the importance of the girl child?
On one hand, we Indians, have so many woman deities being worshipped as God. On the other hand, we still have women and young girls being gang raped.
There is a lot of talk happening about justice and equality but it us yet to reach the rural level. Urban girls are more enthused, and they do pride in their being a woman and appreciating girls. But it is a known fact that there are certain cities where women fear to step out.
Girls Are Great, learn To Appreciate Them
What is the main factor driving this force?
Attitude among men is the main factor, irrespective of whether they are educated or not. The way they have been brought up with values in life, the way they have seen their mother or sister being treated – this can have a great effect!
I Am A Girl, Not A Choice
How do you think these murals are affecting the thought process of girls and boys in the school?
There is respect which is breeding unknowingly for the girls, from the side of the boys. They realize that girls are to be respected and appreciated.
Give Girls The Wings To Fly
What was your journey like to become the principal of such a prestigious school?
I began as a Teacher Trainee in PSBB Senior Secondary School in 1986. It has been a roller coaster ride since then. There have been many a thrilling moments and a lot of learning. It is but natural when you get to work under some one like Dr Mrs Y G Parthasarathy, The Dean and Director of the school. Becoming Principal was a lot of responsibility. The work is more challenging. My perspectives have changed, too, because of the broader outlook. I work with more people now, and the goals that I set for myself are different, too.
Girl Child – The Greatest Gift To Mankind
What is your one wish for girls in your school and all over the world?
Mrs. Jayashree Subramanian, the Head-Mistress said, ” I want girls in my school and all over the world to have self-respect, self-esteem and know that they are powerful. I want to teach the girls in my school to face the challenging world with confidence and courage and know that they can be whatever they aspire you to.”
K(no)w Mother, K(no)w Daughter, K(no)w Life
Mrs. Bhavani Baskar, The Vice Principal said, “I want to teach my girls courage, valor and self-esteem. The great South Indian poet Bharathi said, “It is a great blessing to be born as a human, and even greater honor and privilege to be born as a woman.” I want my girls to realize that. I want my girls to be mothers, sisters, daughters and to be an embodiment of love for this entire race.”
There were a few other teachers too who shared their wish for girls everywhere.
Girls Education Can Change The World
Mrs. Mukhtar Tahsin Fathima, 3 – grade teacher
Mrs. Mukhtar Tahsin Fathima, the third grade teacher said, “I want all girls to have awareness about sexual education. I want them to know and be able to protect themselves under any untoward circumstances. I want little children, both, boys and girls, to be given adequate sexual education, and the ability to take care of themselves and seek help when they need it. They should also let down their reservations, shyness and taboo and come out and speak and discuss and be aware of things.”
Mrs. Deepa Seshadri, English Teacher
Mrs. Deepa Seshadri, the English teacher said, “I want my girls to be able to wear and talk what they feel like. They should have the freedom to be natural and happy. They should not have to live in a world where any spontaneous or innocent act is misconstrued in a wrong way. My girls as well as boy students should be able to live in a world which is liberated from prejudice of gender-related actions.”
Mrs. Banu, Kindergarten Teacher
Mrs. Banu the Kindergarten teacher said, “I want equality for all my students. When gender equality is ensured, everything else follows. Education of girl-child, empowerment of women, better living conditions for girls and women and many such issues are resolved.
Girls have a say in everything happening with them. They are independent, and they get to decide what they want to do with their lives. I have brought up my daughter, instilling that she is equal or better than just about any of her counterparts. Every mother and teacher need to do the same with their children. “
The Principal of the school, Mrs. Sita Umamaheswaran said, “I want my girls to know they are no less than any boy or man. To dream big, and set goals that they can work toward. Enjoy womanhood and be in a world that respects women and safeguards them.”
The students of this school have expressed their wish for girls across the world, through these hand-painted, beautiful and striking murals.
What is your wish for the Girl-Child across the world?
This is an original post from our World Mom and Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan on the occasion of the “#DayOfTheGirl Child.”
Her contributions to the World Moms Blog can be found here. She also rambles at The Alchemist’s Blog.
Photo credit for the murals, to the PSBB Millennium School.
We are so proud that three World Moms have been selected this year to be United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellows and to take part in #Blogust to benefit Shot@Life. Two other World Moms also wrote posts for #Blogust as Shot@Life Champions. #Blogust is a social good relay sponsored by Walgreens to benefit the United Nations Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign which provides life saving vaccines to children around the world.
World Moms Advocating for Global Health: Nicole Morgan from “Sisters from Another Mister”, Jennifer Burden (World Moms Blog Founder), and Nicole Melancon of “Thirdeyemom” will all be heading to NYC this September as Social Good Fellows with the UN Foundation.
Every child deserves a Shot@Life, and we at World Moms Blog are thrilled to be able to use our voices for social good. Each day for the month of August one writer will share their story of Happy & Healthy Firsts. Every time a post is commented on or shared on social media a vaccine is donated by Walgreens to a child in need. We encourage you to read, comment on, and share our posts, and know that when you do, you are using your voice for social good as well.
United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellows & #Blogust Bloggers:
Nicole Morgan on the Shot@Life Blog: “Honored and humbled to be among 25 Social Good Fellows chosen by the United Nations Foundation and shot@life for Blogust 2014 because social good is dear to my heart and teaches my girls to pay it forward. Accountability and looking out for others is part of day to day parenting.” Read More…
Jennifer Burden on World Moms Blog: “So, tell me now, have you ever experienced any “firsts” growing up that were better than you ever expected or were highly impressionable on who you are today? Many highly anticipated first experiences often come and go forgotten or don’t really mean anything today in retrospect, right? But, here’s a story of one first in my life that made an impact, and I admit to even going back for more! It’s not chocolate, but could have been chocolate, but no, it wasn’t.” Read More…..
Nicole Melancon on the Shot@Life Blog: “We all remember the firsts: those monumental moments that shape your life and those around you. The moments that take your breath away. The first word. The first step. The first “I love you”. The first day of school. The first kiss. The first goodbye. Firsts that impact our journeys down the long and sinuous path of life.”Read More…..
Sarah Hughs on Finnegan and the Hughes: “Today is my birthday! It’s a big day and my last year before I start a new age group, 40 and up! It’s my first time ever turning 39. I think 39 is a milestone. I have heard many that claim to have turned 39 over and over again. It’s funny how they never get to 40. I’m ok with the big 4-0 and have decided I will celebrate and be proud of 40 because that is a huge milestone!” Read More…..
Elizabeth Atalay on Documama: “This is my first time. My first time letting go. My oldest child goes off to school in another state next week, and I have to admit, I’m having a tough time with that. The thought that for the first time in her life she will not be living under our roof. For the first time I have to trust her to the outside world. For the first time I won’t be right there for her for whatever she needs, and let’s face it, I can’t check on her whenever I need for my own piece of mind.” Read More….
Nicole Morgan on Sisters from Another Mister: “Blogging has blessed my life more than I ever could have imagined. It started as a way to kill time while waiting on my younger homeschooler, in lieu of my then obsession with Farmville … (and OMGawsh reading thro the comments from that post reminds me of the great friendships born) altho as for games, now whisper quietly”. Read More…
Nicole Melancon on ThirdeyeMom: “I’m honored that my Shot@Life post “Blogust: Reaching Firsts and Making a Difference” is live today on the United Nations Foundation’s website. Blogust is a month-long digital dialogue, bringing more than 25 of the most beloved online writers, photo and video bloggers and Shot@Life champions (me!) together to help change the world through their words and imagery throughout the month of August. For every comment and/or social media share, Walgreens will donate one life-saving vaccine to a child in need around the world.” Read More…
AND, WAIT, THERE’S MORE!!
World Mom, Cindy Levin, the Anti-Poverty Mom, has an appointment this week with US Representative Wagner’s Office in Missouri this week to lobby for life-saving vaccines. Way to put things into action, Cindy!!
During Shot@Life’s Blogust 2014—a month-long blog relay—some of North America’s most beloved online writers, photo and video bloggers and Shot@Life Champions will come together and share stories about Happy and Healthy Firsts. Every time you comment on this post and other Blogust contributions, or share them via social media on this website, Shot@Life and the United Nations Foundation pages, Walgreens will donate one vaccine (up to 60,000). Blogust is one part an overall commitment of Walgreens donating up to $1 million through its “Get a Shot. Give a Shot.®” campaign. The campaign will help provide millions of vaccines for children in need around the world. Today’s #Blogust post is by our friend and photographer Anne Geddes!
A UN Foundation Shot@Life delegation to Uganda, including World Moms, Jennifer Burden and LaShaun Martin, shows we are “this close” to eradicating polio worldwide. — October 2012
According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control,
“The eradication of polio from the western hemisphere is among the most significant public health achievements of all time, but victory over polio cannot be claimed until the entire world is made safe from the disease, and that is the commitment the global public health community has made.”
What is polio?
“Polio is a crippling and potentially deadly infectious disease caused by a virus that spreads from person to person invading the brain and spinal cord and causing paralysis.” — US CDC
Is there a cure for polio?
“Because polio has no cure, vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and the only way to stop the disease from spreading. The spread of polio has never stopped in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Poliovirus has been reintroduced and continues to spread in Chad and Horn of Africa after the spread of the virus was previously stopped.
In the late 1940s to the early 1950s, in the United States alone, polio crippled around 35,000 people each year making it one of the most feared diseases of the twentieth century. By 1979 the country became polio free.” — US CDC
Shot@Life & The GAVI Alliance
The protection of the global population, especially children, from such horrid diseases motivates our volunteerism with the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign and the GAVI Alliance. Shot@Life rallies Americans in support of life-saving vaccines for children in the developing world, and sends monetary support organizations on the ground administering the vaccines, such as the GAVI Alliance.
“These diseases are only a plane ride away.” — Dr. Meg Fisher of American Academy of Pediatrics
What Can You Do to Help?
Join World Moms Blog in our movement to help protect the children who need it most, and help eradicate diseases, such as polio.
1) Donate to Shot@Life. Did you know $20 fully vaccinates a child from the 4 leading causes of death of children under 5 years old — polio, measles, rotavirus and pneumonia? And only $1 pays for a polio vaccination.
2) Throw a GAVI Global Tea Party to raise awareness. Did you know you can use these tips from the World Moms about how to have interesting discussions with your friends and family on one of the leading global health solutions?
3) Join the #endpolionow Twitter Party tonight at 8pm-9pm EST tonight, Thursday, October 24th. Shot@Life Champions are taking to twitter tonight in support of polio eradication, and we’ll be there, too, making some noise!
4) Share this post and read our posts on our journey with Shot@Life to Uganda. There, we observed UNICEF’s Family Health Days, which administer life-saving vaccines to children under 5 years old.
Day 1: UNICEF Offices in Kampala Debrief
Day 2: Family Health Day in Mumbende, Uganda
Day 3: Signs of Poverty
Day 4: Family Health Day in Kabarole, Uganda
Do all 4, do 1 — whatever you can do. Help us help children and help eradicate polio worldwide!
This is an original post by World Mom, Jennifer Burden.
Photo credit to Stuart Ramson of the UN Foundation.
#Moms4MDGs! World Moms Blog editors, Elizabeth Atalay, Jennifer Burden & Nicole Melancon pose with the ONE Campaign’s Jeannine Harvey and writer Jennifer Barbour just before heading into UN Headquarters in New York City on September 23, 2013.
In the late 1970s, a popular saying then was, “Who cares?” — equivalent to the “Whatever!”, which was more frequently used by myself and my peers decades later. Back in the day, my older teenage family members and friends would use the “Who cares?” in natural conversation when I was running around the house as a toddler. I would immediately respond by turning my head to one side and saying, “I care!” My family found this entertaining, and they kept saying, “Who cares?”, to get me to do the silly head turn. (Yep. I just admitted that.)
Too young to explain then, I still remember why I turned my head. I wanted them to know that someone cared, but I didn’t want anybody to know it was me.
Fast forward 30 something years later, and I have found a place where fellow “I Care!” folks convene. Like a Trekkie at a Star Trek conference, I was among the masses of people “Who Care” at the Social Good Summit this year, including Richard Branson, Melinda Gates (who follows World Moms Blog!), Al Gore, will.i.am and Malala.
This year was World Moms Blog’s third year in attendance at the event, which is a “three day conference where big ideas meet new media to create innovative solutions” that coincides with the UN’s General Assembly in New York City.
Nicole Morgan, Jennifer Barbour, Jeannine Harvey, Elizabeth Atalay, Kelly Pugliano and Jennifer Burden at the Social Good Summit September 24th, 2013 in NYC.
The first year in 2011, our website was less than one year old, and I attended with my husband in tow to help me watch my baby girl. I knew not a soul, and stepped out of my comfort zone to do things like introduce myself to super model Christy Turlington Burns after being inspired by her session on working alongside bloggers to improve global maternal health. I also connected further with the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign, which I later traveled to Uganda with last year and the GAVI Alliance, for which we have hosted global tea parties in support of life-saving vaccines for children.
Our second year at the summit in 2012, World Moms Blog had newly made the FORBES list of “Top 100 Websites for Women 2012” for our first of two times, and I couldn’t wait to listen to and meet Moira Forbes, who heads FORBES Woman. By this time I had roped some amazing, like-minded friends from my blogging circle into the conference, too — Nicole Melancon of Third Eye Mom and Elizabeth Atalay of Documama. They are the World Voice editors at World Moms Blog and cover social good and human rights.
That year, we met some incredible people, such as Nicholas Kristoff, coauthor of “Half the Sky“, a must-read book on the nightmare realities of modern day slavery. The summit was also a great opportunity for a reunion with fellow Shot@Life Champions, whom we had met earlier that year at training in Washington, D.C. in support of global vaccines, and our fellow #ONEMoms who support eradicating global poverty.
Our third time at the Social Good Summit this past September, our World Moms Blog team expanded, and I was also thrilled to be invited as a #2030NOW “Global Influencer” Fellow by the UN Foundation and Plus Social Good.
I attended small “Master Class” private sessions throughout the conference and networked with some new amazing peers. One of which was Wall Street power house, Whitney Johnson, who recently named me to her list of the few people who made a lasting impression at the Social Good Summit. I am entirely humbled. The list also includes one of my total heroes who spoke at the Social Good Summit, Malala, the brave girl in Pakistan who was shot in the face by the Taliban and addresses the world on the importance of education girls.
I also got the chance to rub elbows with the fiery Feminista Jones, who is not afraid to stand up in a room of over achievers and a princess and give an effortless tirade on why AIDS is killing black women in America at alarming rates and no one seems to care. I didn’t know if I wanted to hug or tweet her afterwards. We were discussing HIV/AIDS with HRH Mette-Marit, the Crowned Princess of Norway to add some context here.
In addition to the #2030NOW Global Influencers team, the Shot@Life Champions and #ONEMoms, I was also proud to be part of another social good posse. We’re made up of women who happen to also be moms and writers, and we all live for this helping people all over the world stuff. It’s in our blood. And it matters.
Nicole and Elizabeth came back this year, and we added Nicole Morgan, Kelly Pugliano, Jennifer Barbour and the former Miss Tanzania and Miss Africa World and current social entrepreneur, Nancy Sumari to our pack. Nancy happened to be in NYC on a work-cation, and meeting her was a total highlight!
World Moms Blog contributors took the stage at the Social Good Summit, too! LaShaun Martin spoke on the “Mothers Connect” panel with Johnson & Johnson and Shot@Life, and Nicole Morgan was asked to speak on her wishes for her children on the same panel. Well done, World Moms!
This year our normal schedule was also highlighted by additional invitations from ONE.org, WaterAid, Save the Children, Shot@Life, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Women Deliver, and the GAVI Alliance to talk social good and network outside of the summit. This included two invitations to UN Headquarters for discussions, one on Millennial Factivism with ONE.org and Okay Africa and another on Harnessing the Power of Global Public-Private Partnerships with the GAVI Alliance and the Global Fund. We have learned so much that we’ll carry along with us.
For example, at a private meeting with Mark Suzman, Managing Director of International Policy and Programs for The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he gave us a stat that I have continued to turn over and over in my head ever since,
“In Ethiopia 1 in 15 children die before the age of 5 years old. But, not too long ago that statistic had been 1 in 5 children.” A true reminder that the world is making progress when it comes to the Millennium Development Goals, but there is still much work to be done.
There were internal lessons for us on gaining the self-confidence to speak up and carry out our work, too. For example, being at a press event when they’re fielding questions for Carolyn Miles, the CEO of Save the Children, about refugee children in Syria and the questions were coming from TIME Magazine, ABC and….well, World Moms Blog. (We care about kids!)
#Moms4MDGs in NYC — Nancy Sumari; Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children, Nicole Melancon; Elizabeth Atalay; Jennifer Burden; and Jennifer Barbour just after a discussion on children refugees from the Syrian conflict. Sept. 23, 2013.
Or going through UN Headquarters security with fellow World Mom and Sister from Another Mister, Nicole Morgan, with our matching bright green luggage that we had both received as gifts from the Disney Social Media Moms conference amongst high level foreign diplomats.
We went from sharing a seat at the “It’s a Small World” ride together in May at Walt Disney World to being invited to the UN headquarters during the General Assembly in September. It really is a small world after all.
Our global posse is rooting together for the good of the world, and we’re also always pushing, encouraging, growing like a snowball and making it easier for each other to do more. The Social Good Summit has proved a great place to connect World Moms Blog with the United Nations and with organizations working towards a better life for mothers and children around the globe, an important part of our mission. Our contributors, in turn, are bringing big ideas to media, just like the creation of our #Moms4MDGs campaign to raise awareness for the UN’s goals to end poverty inspired by our editor, Purnima Ramakrishnan in India. I can’t wait to see what these women will do next!
And we all care very much, dammit. (Turns head to the side to stretch neck from working at the computer screen too long.)
This is an original post by World Moms Blog Founder, Jennifer Burden of NJ, USA. Keep an eye out for more from our contributors about the important global issues we were briefed on. And join our #Moms4MDGs twitter parties each month, where we talk about one global issue (UN Millennium Development Goal) per month. The next ones are October 16th, 2013 at 1pm and 9pm EST. Click our details in our sidebar, too!
Photo credits to Nicole Melancon, Elizabeth Atalay, Nancy Sumari and the #2030Now Global Influencer team!
We can’t wait to head to New York City tomorrow to attend this year’s Social Good Summit! This is one of our favorite conferences, and a great place to catch up with many of the people and foundations, including some that are a part of our #Moms4MDGs campaign, that we work with online throughout the year. It will take place at the 92nd St. Y in Manhattan from Sunday, September 22nd through Tuesday, September 24th in tandem with the Summit at the United Nations.
World Moms Blog editors and contributors, Elizabeth Atalay, Nicole Melancon, Nicole Morgan and LaShaun Martin are on their way to New York City! And my very good friend, Kelly Pugliano from EatPicks and Mom Got Blog, will be coming to the Social Good Summit for the first time with us. We’ll be attending both, sessions at the Social Good Summit, and thanks to ONE.org and the GAVI Alliance, panels at the United Nations. There will be so much to learn and to write home about! We will also be meeting Wateraid and attending a special lunch with ONE.org, Save the Children and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. And LaShaun will be speaking at the summit for Shot@Life! And Nicole Morgan will be on stage to tell her wishes for her children! We can’t wait!!
And to top it all off this week, we’ll be meeting World Moms Blog contributor, Nancy Sumari from Tanzania! She is the former Miss Tanzania and Miss Africa World and current social entrepreneur. We are over the moon excited about meeting her!!!
I also have something else super excited to tell you — this year, I was awarded a “Global Influencers” Fellowship by the UN Foundation. Along with 9 of my peers in various places of the media industry, I will be up early and taking special classes to discuss and brainstorm the MDGs and more with guest speakers prior to the start of the conference each day. I’m really looking forward to telling you all about this!
Speakers this year include Al Gore, Melinda Gates, Will.i.am and more!
And the good news is that you don’t have to wait until we attend the summit to hear all about it. There is a live stream that you can join in!
Click here for the live stream: Social Good Summit 2013 LiveStream.
Follow the Social Good Summit’s hashtag on Twitter: #2030Now
Be part of the conversation! Let’s make a difference!
Jennifer Burden, Founder, World Moms Blog.