Thank you for all your support. I'm writing to you to let you know about developments in the project over the past three months,and also to share Prina's story, one of the beneficiaries of the project.
While crossing the Mumbai Central railway bridge, a Saathi team member noticed a physically handicapped woman and began chatting with her. 25 years old, Prina said she’d arrived from Lucknow to meet a friend who lives in Mumbai. Her friend had agreed to help her obtain a government-issued certificate recognizing her disability so that she could find accommodation in an institution. The Saathi worker had many doubts about Prina’s story, but recognized she was in dire need of shelter and food and eventually convinced her to come to the shelter for a while.
The next morning, having grown a bit more confident, Prina shared her real story. 2 years ago, while pregnant, Prina suffered a paralytic attack. While the pregnancy continued unaffected, Prina never regained full use of her right side. Amidst her own difficulty in coping with her new reality, her husband became abusive. Seeking support, she left New Delhi where she had lived for eight years with her husband and went to her father’s home in Lucknow. But her father and her family are themselves impoverished and were unable to support her. When Prina returned to Delhi, she sought assistance from the local government hospital, but was turned away.
The domestic violence in her home increased and Prina was unable to find any public assistance from support systems for the physically handicapped. Frustrated, depressed and desperate, she left her husband and 2 children for Mumbai where she hoped to find the support needed to live normally as a disabled individual. Unfamiliar with the city, when she arrived at Mumbai Central Train Terminus, she didn't know what to do. IT was fortunate the Saathi worker saw her rather than someone who might have taken advantage of her.
Prina has been with Saathi for one month. Through regular counseling and case work, she is beginning to believe that she can have a meaningful life again, though the scars of verbal abuse for being physically disabled still disturb her. A physiotherapist is working with her to restore whatever mobility can be achieved and teach her to work around the paralysis as well as possible. Most of all, she is valuing the sense of belongingn and warmth she has gotten from Saathi, which she says has been missing from her life for years.
And now to turn to some news about how the project has developed:
We have seen eight girls complete their exams, with ten more attending non- formal daily classes. There has also been a new social leadership program giving the girls a platform to share and voice their opinions on issues affecting youths. In the drama sessions, the project participants have given two performances, one on personal hygiene and cleanliness and another on gender discrimination. Many girls are also working to produce glass mosaics, which not only give an opportunity for self-expression and pride, but also help to generate income for themselves.
In addition, there were changes in the system for managing individual’s progress as well as a review of the three shelters and the day care centers. This was to ensure that the spaces are fully utilized to help rebuild the lives of the individuals who come in contact with the project.
Three new girls who have suffered abuse were referred to the project.
In June, the project was visited by one of its success stories. After the death of her parents, Anjali had found herself in an abusive situation. However, with the help and support from both Saathi and a peer NGO, she is now a social worker in a reputable organization, where she is caretaker to 60 girls.
Thank you again to all our supporters for this project.
In this update we share Banni's story, and explore the stigma around mental illness in Indian society. Although from an affluent family, Banni is not supported because her mental illness brings shame and embarrassment onto her family.
When workers from Saathi met Banni, she said she had lost her way and was trying to get back to Anand Hostel in Kandivli (a suburb of Mumbai) where she is the in-charge of the boys’ hostel. As the interaction continued, Banni shared that she was from Diphu, Assam, and had studied at a Mumbai university. She then confided that she had two children, Joseph and Ramzei, and was married to Prince William of Britain and Prince James of Russia.
Banni’s case worker immediately contacted to local police in Diphu, Assam, in an effort to trace her family. Through the active cooperation of the police, her family was quickly located and Banni’s elder brother soon contacted the case worker. He confirmed that Banni had suffered from psychiatric problems for the past 8 years and ongoing medical treatment and medication had not led to her recovery. She had run away several times, and this time had been away from home for quite a while. He said the family would come to Mumbai to take her home immediately.
But a week passed, and there was no word from the family. When Banni’s case worker called, the brother again assured her they would be coming to take Banni and also gave some more details about her past. This was the 3rd time she’d run away from home and he knew she had previously been in contact with Shraddha Nursing Home in Borivali.
While waiting for the family to come, the caseworker contacted Shraddha Nursing Home in an effort to fill in the medical history. Banni’s doctor there spoke about her case – Banni had been found on the streets and because of her mental status, she was kept under medications. Once her family was found, Shraddha Nursing Home sent her back home. But Banni again ran away and returned to Shraddha. This time, she was 3 months pregnant. The doctors again restored her to her family. The family wasn’t very cooperative or supportive towards her mental health, but the family was affluent and fit to take care of her.
The 3rd time Banni ran away, she again returned to Shraddha Nursing Home, this time with a 1 month old baby and her psychiatric condition had worsened. Since the family was uncooperative, she was referred to an organization in Pune, Maharashtra (about 3 hours from Mumbai). There, she was kept under observation and medication. After 6 months, Banni ran away and returned to Mumbai, leaving her child with the organization. It was then that Saathi met her.
In the 3 weeks spent gathering this information, Banni’s family did not come to pick her up nor did they contact Saathi. When the caseworker would call them, they gave assurances that they were coming. Finally the caseworker confronted the family and asked if they would at least support the organization for Banni’s rehabilitation. The family replied that Banni’s mental illness and running away from home had brought shame on the family and they would not support her in any way. They have never contacted Saathi again.
Through it all, Banni remained in the shelter at Saathi, receiving psychiatric care and medication. It has been 2 months and she has found a niche for herself, using her own education to assist in teaching the other girls English. She is aware of her illness and understands the need for medication and treatment to keep the schizophrenia in check. She has been extremely cooperative with her caseworker in this.
Banni’s story is an example of the very real stigma attached to mental illness. She is well educated and comes from an affluent family, yet she has ended up homeless.
Thank you for all your support over the holiday period and before. The accompanying report gives details of highlights of the project's work over the last three months, for example drama work helping the girls relate better to each other, and creating institutional change through training the police in child-friendly practices.
A particularly challenging situation also arose for the project within this period with 4 of the girls running away from the short-stay home to Goa, and the moral, legal and technical difficulties that resulted in trying to support them.
A case study illustrating project efforts in the last quarter from advocacy and awareness building to individual case management.
Neesha’s story illustrates some of the challenges in helping young women at risk in Mumbai. Neesha’s is the story of a girl unable to care for herself independently, who has been trafficked for domestic work, exploited and abused, is now suffering from mental trauma, and as a Bangladeshi runs the risk of deportation rather than receiving help from the authorities. As her mental retardation prevents her from fully understanding her situation, her frustration manifests in the only way Neesha knows how – through violent outbursts and disruptive behaviour….[read the full story attached, along with news of the project 's progress over the past year]
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