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Leveraging the Ancient Art of Ladishah to Raise Awareness on School Safety

ELFA International

Areej works as a project coordinator and as a field worker with Elfa International in Srinagar. The organisation’s core activities focus on bringing positive changes in the lives of youth, women, children and other vulnerable groups by promoting access to quality inclusive education, livelihood and income-generating opportunities, and social and economic dignity. Responding to the many natural disasters that the state of Jammu and Kashmir faces, Elfa International has trained school, college, and university students, faculty members, and government and non-government officials in inclusive disaster risk reduction across the state.

In order to engage children in this space, the organisation utilised the unique method of Ladishahs, which is a traditional folk ballad of Jammu and Kashmir. While it was earlier performed only by men, Areej has emerged as the first female Ladishah. She uses this storytelling to inform children about safety, inclusive education, mental well-being, and being prepared during natural disasters. 

Areej realised that while topics around safety and natural disasters were very important they could also be disturbing or upsetting to children. There was a need to speak to a young audience in a way where they not only would remember the messages but would also be keen on learning more. Over time Areej has found that the Ladishahs she performs immediately engage children and the humour and satire used when it is presented keeps the audience captivated. As a result, the children that they train remember the key messages and can go through the various school safety drills independently.


Areej shares that this innovative way of using Ladishahs has been an effective teaching tool for her. At the same time, Elfa International contributes to keeping this ancient storytelling technique alive and continues to bring new, young audiences to this art form.

“ Ladisha is a powerful way to talk about the things that we see around us. As teachers, we have used this uniquely engaging method to speak to children about staying safe during natural disasters ”

Areej Syed Zaffar from Srinagar, Kashmir

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