Community engagement is seen as an important component of liberal education and experiential learning. It provides the critical connection with the real world. Students are urged to join one of the three co-curricular activities, namely, Sports, NCC and NSS. MH students uphold community work and have a strong sense of idealism and service. They are driven by a desire to change the world and in particular, like to work in the social sector. Gender issues, human rights, women empowerment and sustainable development are of strong interest. NSS Unit undertakes need assessment of the local community in the beginning of each academic year. It plans and prioritizes projects. An orientation programme is organized to introduce students to the services of community in the beginning of the academic session. The college also engages with the society at large through its other forums such as the Women's Development Cell, Enactus, the international non-profit organization promoting entrepreneurial action to improve the standard of living of people in need, Tula, the Consumer Club, the Gandhi Study Circle, Lakshita, the Society for the differently-abled and MH-Vatavaran, the college Environment Society.
Co-curricular activities provide the appropriate forum for sensitizing students to what it means to be a good citizen and motivating them to work in the service of the nation. MH has from its inception contributed to social causes and worked relentlessly towards building an egalitarian society. Students are encouraged to work relentlessly for disadvantaged communities. Enactus and NSS have well-structured community engagement programmes. As these activities represent and add to the core values of the college, they have to meet a set of ethical and operational standards. This entails outlining objectives, methods, challenges, opportunities and accomplishments. Students receive pre-interaction training and are sensitized to inherent complexity and level of unpredictability in community interactions. They are expected to undertake initial surveys to map the ground realities, community needs analysis, meticulous planning, feasibility and sustainability study before commencing on field interactions and field interventions. NSS volunteers desirous of adopting a slum followed this process for quality observance. A similar exercise was undertaken on a project wherein the NSS volunteers launched a programme to befriend and strengthen the educational opportunities for women students enrolled in the DU School of Open Learning MH Contact Programme that runs on Sundays and on all gazetted holidays.
MH holds extension work as a priority area. Each year, the college tries to increase the range and scope of its contribution to society at large. It monitors the nature and quality of work undertaken; most importantly, it reflects on (i) the impact of the work on communities and (ii) learning and transformative change it brings in student volunteers. Extension work is viewed as action research; the process loop incorporates identification of a problem, planning, implementation, and iterative modifications for goal accomplishment. Inasmuch as academics is the forte, element of research and systematic evaluation is critical. It is well understood that work with communities is often arduous and benefits accrued are not always quickly visible.
MH has several projects of longstanding such as in adopted areas or with marginalized communities. These rest on a deep commitment to stakeholder community and are viewed differently from short duration focused projects.
A variety of forums in Miranda House engage in extension and outreach.
- Clean Environment: NSS volunteers and MH Vatavaran have undertaken cleanliness and environment consciousness campaigns in mission mode. The college is declared a Zero Solid Waste Zone. Volunteers ensure that the college has exemplary cleanliness even at events such as the Annual Festival with footfall of more than 5000 and scores of food stalls. During DUSU elections while DU is littered with pamphlets, MH campus presents a sharp contrast. Volunteers pick paper from the pedestrian walkways and deliver it to the Paper Recycling Plant. College launched the Swachh Parisar Abhiyan (Clean Environs Mission) on 02 October 2014 and has kept momentum. Volunteers participate regularly in DU Campus Cleanliness Drive, Yamuna Cleanliness Drive; Clean India Green India; Dengue Awareness Campaign; Mega Tree Plantation Drive, etc. Several student groups script and perform Street Plays on these themes for community awareness.
- Educating: College NSS unit focuses on teaching the underprivileged children as part of Institutional Social Responsibility. Presently, NSS has established two Off Campus Centres in low income Jhuggi Cluster to facilitate about 100 needy children. More than 60 NSS volunteers take turns to teach school going students, helping them with schoolwork. Most importantly, they impart basic life skills, inculcating hygienic habits and moral values. Special focus is on engaging them in extracurricular activities. Volunteers celebrate festivals with their mentees, and invite them to MH functions giving them a chance to perform. NSS has initiated a new project Holding Hands for women students of SOL who have their Personal Contact Classes on holidays at MH with the aim of assisting them academically and engaging them in extracurricular activities. They also organize Remedial Classes for children of MH staff living on the campus. An important initiative has been English Speaking Course in association with British Council and Teach India for the permanent and contractual staff of the college.
- Assisting Persons with Disabilities: NSS and Enabling Society volunteers befriend and assist visually challenged students in more ways than can be listed. The Freshers' Orientation Samdrishti, provides a guided introduction to MH and DU facilities. Students provide academic help by scanning and editing essential readings, texts, and references to make a digital collection; read and record lessons; enhance ICT training; act as writers for DU examinations. Volunteers assist PwD participate in extracurricular activities and escort them to various off campus competitive events.
- Empowering Women: WDC launched a national campaign Growing up Girl in collaboration with well known NGOs Plan, CFAR and CAPF. This unique campaign aims to spread awareness on (i) declining child sex ratio; and (ii) missing girls in India. WDC joined hands with the International Campaign One Billion Rising (OBR) to end violence against women and to lead the campaign in DU. In collaboration with Rahi Foundation, it started a 6-month long University level Campaign on Child Sexual Abuse called I Will Not Shut Up which engaged 20 volunteers. Diverse activities included an Online Placard campaign, self facilitated workshops, movie screenings, and the play Dear Daddy.
- Improving Livelihoods: The mandate of the International movement Enactus led by KPMG is to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of volunteers in order to empower communities in need through social enterprise. MH has two well established projects, Tarang and Zaffran especially aimed at uplifting the economic status of women in slums and two budding projects aimed at helping other 'communities in need' under its aegis. Tarang provides technical and vocational training to women weavers to make and market products such as designer clutches and baskets, carry bags, shoe bags and scarves. Zaffran engages another community of women to make spices, package and label them for innovative marketing. A new Project Jazba, aims to break boundaries for those treated as outcasts in the society. The USP of Zaffran is that it is flourishing without collaboration with any NGO. Its success has helped the college team win many grants at national level. In 2013 and 2015 Zaffran won a financial grant worth Rs. 16,000 from Walmart. Mahindra Rise granted a sum of Rs. 40,000 in the years 2014 and 2015; it also won the KPMG Ethics Grant worth Rs. 50,000.
- Medical Camps: College organizes several medical camps for generating awareness on diseases such as Alzheimer's and cancer. Interactive sessions on Menstrual Abnormalities among Young Women and Voices for Cancer drew renowned experts and NGOs. Blood donation camps are a regular feature. MH in association with Red Cross Society orgnanized a Certificate Course on First Aid in the year 2015 for students and staff. This will be a regular feature.
- Consumer Awareness: In its ten years of existence, TULA, the Consumer Club has been instrumental in changing perceptions about consumerism. A week-long Certificate Workshop and year-long activities impart education on making judicious decisions regarding services and goods; and legal provisions on consumer rights. The group works closely with the Ministry of Consumer Affairs. It also generates public awareness through self-scripted street plays.
- Youth Programmes: Volunteers from NSS, Gandhi Study Circle, Vivekanand Society and Environment Society are regular participants at youth events in the city. They participated in the Yuwa Diwas, an event to mark the birth centenary of Swami Vivekanand. Students also represented the college at the TERI EYSD (Educating Youth for Sustainable Development) Division in TERI YUVA (Youth Unite for Voluntary Action) Meet 2015. The focus of the summit was Sustainable Development Goals and Dealing with Climate Change. As a part of cultural exchange, the NSS unit was invited by the Ministry of Youth Affairs to host a delegation from Egypt and Azerbaijan in 2012. The college also hosted a delegation from Bangladesh in 2013. NSS volunteers were invited to participate in celebration of United Nations Volunteer's Day where they interacted with Ms. Solovieva, Deputy Country Director, UNDP.
- Project Avani: This is WDC's Rural Outreach Programme established in collaboration with the Grass Roots Internship Programme (GRIP), in the village of Bhanin, Churu district, Rajasthan. Initiated in December 2015, the Project focuses on menstrual hygiene and maternal and child healthcare and works in accordance with the guidelines of the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana, under which the village has been adopted by MP Mr. Rahul Kaswan.
- Platform for Action: Through a collaborative learning initiative, youth from the slums, resettlement clusters and WDC volunteers are engaged in understanding the needs of the youth to cope and counter gender violence. A document called the Platform for Action was prepared in 2015 which provided the understanding on the rights and responsibilities of youth as well as a set of recommendations for protection, promotion of safety and security of women and girls. This was presented to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Women and Child Development, Central Government, and was highly appreciated by them.
- Climate Change, Water Security and Livelihood Resilience: A DU Innovation Project, this is looking at the role of traditional knowledge and modern technologies in Rajasthan. The survey included around 400 households in the interior villages in the arid and semi-arid parts of western Rajasthan. The survey in these areas helped students appreciate the traditional knowledge in creating resilient livelihoods in the face of severe water scarcity and persistent drought in this area. Many students, for the first time got an opportunity to see the Other India, in the remotest areas of the country.
- Gendered Socialization: Under this DU Innovation Project, students surveyed Gendered Socialization of youth in the matrilineal societies of North-East India in Shillong, 2014.
- Disaster Research Programme: The neighbourhood mapping of disaster risk in an area usually inhabited by DU students from outside Delhi is of great practical significance. It has been enabled by stakeholder participation and has thus created awareness amongst the youth population.
- Women Safety Audit: MH students in association with Delhi Police undertook safety audit of the Paying Guest accommodations availed by women students of DU, in the surrounding areas.
- Facilitating Distance Learners: NSS Volunteers carried out a survey and interviews of women students of SOL at MH PCP cluster to determine their academic needs with a view to launching enrichment activities for them.
Best Practice: School of Life - Jeevan Ke Rang Paathshala Ke Sang
This unique endeavor is a joint initiative of MH, WDC and CFAR (Centre for Advocacy and Research). It has been innovatively designed as a learner driven educational programme to provide participatory and collaborative two-way, mutually experiential learning between young people from the community and students of MH. Conceptual training and facilitation is by mentors, many of whom are experts from the social sector, field of communication and faculty members of leading colleges and universities of the city. The ethical foundation is nurtured by the young people involved in the process. The role of the mentors is to reflect, conceptualize and institutionalize the learning experience and thereby enable a common pursuit to address, reduce and mitigate gender based violence at all levels. A special purpose vehicle in the shape of a mobile tent to signify a learning space and a Centre has been created to establish the idea that learning is not static and the more one moves from place to place, engages directly with communities in their own context and with different institutions, the greater the possibility of appreciating different dimensions of the issue. The idea was conceptualized through a brainstorming meeting with multiple stakeholders which included Prof. Thomas Pogge of Yale University, USA, Prof. Ashok Acharya of DU, Akhila Sivadas of CFAR and others from DU in August 2015. The curriculum: This is based on the principle that understanding and engaging with gender conceptually enables the learning to be used as a transformative tool. The School of Life comprises of three capsules of learning each spread over a period of eight days. The themes of the capsules include (i) Conceptual framework regarding Gender and Socialization; (ii) Understanding Violence against Women: Addressing rights and removing stereotypes and misconceptions; and (iii) Linkages with life affirming Initiatives. The capsules followed a two way process to allow the learner and the mentor to establish their own techniques for engagement. Each phase is expected to generate creative outputs to demonstrate learning outcomes. These range from conceiving and scripting a play, initiating an action research project, or putting together an art installation or community newspaper depending on the interest of the mentors and the learners.
The First Capsule of the School of Life was launched in Mandoli Village, Harsh Vihar, Delhi with mentors from MH. The learners included 80 young people, 20 students from MH and 20 each from the three community areas, Nangal Raya, Saboli Khadda and Kalyanpuri. The youth enrolled from the community included survivors and those affected by and vulnerable to violence. Interesting community newspapers were designed by the community youth and MH students creatively reporting on gender issues after the first capsule training of 8 days. The programme successfully provides integrated learning experience fostering inclusion through participation. Future Plans: These include facilitating the development and dissemination of an ethical code for community engagement and strengthening the ownership of all stakeholders, especially the youth, in order to make it self-driven. The Pilot Project is a replicable and scalable way of encouraging openness and dialogue between the youth of universities and the youth of the community, between women and men, between the young and the old thereby fostering respect for socio-cultural diversity and gender equality. This will help build an empowered cadre of young people to work collectively across class, gender and community barriers to prevent, reduce and counter gender inequalities and violence with sensitivity and responsibility