Mar 8, 2021

Celebrating women

Happy IWD
Happy IWD

Happy International Women’s Month. To help us celebrate all of our women, we are proud to have been selected to take part in GlobalGiving’s International Women’s Week Campaign to advance gender-equality and uplift women and girls in communities around the world.  During the campaign which runs until 12 March, all donations up to US$50 will be matched by 50%.

 We rely on the support of you and partners such as GlobalGiving to help us raise much-needed funds to support women of all ages but we equally need your help to raise awareness of the issues.

The World Health Organization (WHO) considers that one out of five women has been physically or sexually assaulted by a man in her life and, in 2017, Reuters ranked India the fourth most dangerous place to be a woman. Gender-based violence such as domestic violence, sex and forced-labour trafficking, dowry deaths, rape, workplace harassment and child marriage continues to increase, irrespective of the education that’s been given on these topics.

Child marriages in Maharashtra where we operate have surged by 78.3%. Every third adolescent girl aged 15-19 years is married and every second married adolescent girl has given birth to a child. Despite harsher penalties, crimes against women and girls in the country are continuing to rise with a 31% increase in the number of reported rape cases over the past 10 years, averaging 88 cases every day. 

COVID-19 has added to the issues with the ‘shadow pandemic’ resulting in dramatic rises in the cases of violence against women and girls. On top of this, online harassment such as stalking, misuse of personal pictures, and inappropriate messages has also gone up making social media and other online platforms an unsafe place for an already restricted female population. 

With your support we are working to end this systematic violence and ensure lives free from inequality, cruelty and discrimination. We believe that every woman deserves a life with dignity and freedom and we stand with them to create a life they truly deserve with all of our love and support.

This week and month is the time to celebrate women and we hope you enjoy this video from our celebrations last year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atuHoGjv75E. We will once again be hosting activities for the women who call Snehalaya home. 

We truly do appreciate you and with your help we have made a significant difference:

  • Snehalaya’s Childline team (ranked no 1 in India) rescued 88 girls from child marriage during lockdown - over 40% of all rescues in Maharashtra!
  • Our 3,500 sex workers were also hit hard during the lockdown period and so far we have helped 35 of them leave prostitution and find new vocations.
  • Our women’s shelter and helpline provided sanctuary to hundreds of women experiencing violence.
  • Our adoption center, despite being 20% over capacity, continued to support pregnant women and victims of rape.
  • Food and hygiene kits distributed to 40,000 families in our poorest communities
  • Roadside assistance to 40,000 migrant workers on the long walk home from Mumbai and Pune.
  • Our new mental health project helps women rejected by their families and forced onto the streets.

You can help us to support many more survivors of abuse and violence today by building them a better, happier tomorrow. We believe in the power of you! 

Links:

Feb 11, 2021

Our Pride & Joy

Priyanka on a field visit
Priyanka on a field visit

With COVID 19 cases dramatically reduced in India, many aspects of life are returning to normal with most schools and colleges reopening. We are pleased to report that most of our girls have already returned to their classrooms and we continue to work with others to ensure no girl is deprived of her education. Throughout the pandemic we have been checking in with and supporting students with their remote learning and online classes which we hope will hep them as they prepare for their exams scheduled in a few months. The world may have paused but thanks to our teams on the ground, the learning continued.

We would like to introduce to you one of our Balbhavan’s exceptionally brilliant and bright girls who has overcome tremendous adversities and powered through it all. Her success has been an inspiration to other girls. Meet Priyanka - a young girl hailing from Ahmednagar, Maharashtra.

Located behind urban housing as you walk along a dirt road you can find Laltaki (slum) hidden from sight. A life of all pleasures is very gratifying. But in a life without houses or education, even imagining this is difficult. When we first visited Laltaki the conditions were woefully deplorable. The community had been residing there for many years, yet they had no access to electricity and not one single toilet or street light. They were living in absolute darkness. Previously they had a limited source of electricity supply,stolen from nearby poles.

However, our biggest question was ‘how are kids expected to study when there is no light?’ Never mind, ‘How can holistic learning and development can be expected to take place?’ 

Snehalaya entered the slum community with a small patch, now well known as the Balbhavan night study center for education and skill development. In the beginning, it was a challenge to convince parents to send their children to our evening school. With gradual surveys and door-to-door discussions, we finally garnered some children from households who now regularly attend classes every day in morning and evening batches. Their curriculum is designed according to their need and follows a holistic approach to learning. As well as teaching and distributing stationery amongst the children, we encourage them to take extracurricular activities such as drawing, colouring, learning to speak about themselves, playing sports, singing and group dancing. We can proudly say that every year we have been successful in enrolling 700 of our children into our Bal Bhavan in an effort to mainstream them into regular schools. 

When we started working in Laltaki, Priyanka would often come to the centre exhausted from all the household chores that she has to perform being as the eldest girl in her family. Instead of going to school she stayed at home helping  take care of her younger siblings and performing household chores while her father and mother worked as daily wagers. Despite her responsibilities, she started coming to Balbhavan to pursue her education.  She had the potential as an avid learner who is always enthusiastic, energetic and open to new challenges and ideas. She also did an excellent job as a team member at our Childline project working for child rights.

Following her lead, Priyanka’s mother also joined Balbhavan’s night school as a peer worker embracing the opportunities, exposure and growth we offer to community women to be the change they wish to see. Today she is one of our smartest workers and has a second job making school meals. 

We are very proud that Priyanka has now completed her Masters in Social Work (MSW) and is using her skills working as a field officer in a reputed organisation, working with migrant workers in Pune.  

Priyanka highlights and aptly sums it up: “We are really lucky to have such a supportive and encouraging team at Lalaki Balbhavan who have helped me and my mother reach these milestones. People in and around Balbhavan school recognize me and respect me. I also have an identity, which gives me indescribable happiness and satisfaction. Belonging to the slums, it’s really a matter of pride for me.”

Thank you for your support in empowering women like Priyanka to access their equal rights to an education and become the changemakers that pay it forward by helping others.

Supporting migrant workers
Supporting migrant workers

Links:

Nov 13, 2020

Happy Diwali

Happy Diwali from our family to yours
Happy Diwali from our family to yours

Diwali is celebrated of the victory of good over evil and the transition from darkness into light. The past eight months have been challenging for us as an organisation responsible for thousands of beneficiaries and over 300 staff. The lockdown in India highlighted even more vulnerable women and children in need and we have provided emergency support in extreme circumstances and seen an increase in demand for our existing services.

I am incredibly grateful to our Snehalaya family, including staff, beneficiaries, volunteers and supporters like yourself, for rising to the challenges COVID 19 has brought. As we celebrate our festival of light with the end of the pandemic hopefully in sight, we would like to share some of our positive news and highlights from the past few months to show the impact that we have made together.

I am glad to report that the adoption process has now restarted in India, however we a re still significantly over capacity as we and the Indian authorities work through the backlog. Also with many restirctions still in place and the impact of the pandemic and lockdown still having an affect on the poorest sectiosn of our society we are highly dependent on the work of our other 22 projects to prevent more unwanted pregancies and babies being abandoned.

With very few of the poorest families highly dependent on their daily wage and no savings for situations like this, unwanted babies have been one of the victims of the pandemic. Thanks to many of our staff and volunteers living in the communities we serve, we have been able to identify and help families of daily wage workers facing starvation and considering abandoning their babies. As well as supporting pregnant women, we have been working in partnership with staff, beneficiaries, NGO partners and allied systems to distributed cooked meals and essential supplies that will enable them to survive and support their children. So far, we have provided over 10,000 food and hygiene parcels to those with the greatest need to keep starvation at bay.

We were also able to provide emergency financial aid to 1,909 daily wage workers, including families living in our slums, sex workers, transgender, MSM, farmers, pensioners, people living with HIV and others struggling during lockdown. Used to existing on less than US$2 a day, the US$40-65 we were able to give them helped them to stock up on essential such as rice and flour and in some cases, the families, realising that such financial aid is not reliable or sustainable, chose to buy extra provisions to start their own food stalls. This will not only see them through the current crisis but will provides a foundation to build on once life returns to ‘normal’.

Due to the risks and restrictions of Corona virus many of our sex workers were unable to work to earn their living in their usual way. As we already have a program to retrain and support them into alternative careers we are really pleased to report that since the start of lockdown a total of 38 of our female sex workers have started new jobs and businesses, hopefully leaving the world of prostitution, and the risks on unwanted pregnacies, behind them for good! 

While our emergency work continues we also have nearly 15,000 beneficiaries who still need our regular support. This includes women and children living in our shelter homes, slum dwellers, sex workers and women experiencing domestic and other violence. It is anticipated that there has been a huge increase in domestic violence but we are also worried for the girls being married off in child marriages or forced in domestic servitude and at risk of not returning to school once lock down ends.

Fortunately, all of our projects remain active, including our Childline and women’s helplines which offer lifelines and emergency rescue and support to vulnerable women and children. Country-wide restrictions on a maximum of 50 people who can attend a wedding has reduced the average price of a marriage ceremony, which over 500 guests normally attend, from around US$1000 to US$200. While this is good news for lower income families who are taking advantage of the opportunity to maximise their small savings, it has also unfortunately significantly increased the number of child marriages taking place. Fortunately, our Childline team has leaped into action, locating and rescuing 67 child brides so far and our other projects are supporting the rescued girls in a range of other ways.

Times may be extra tough for us all at the moment but, since day one, Snehalya has always tackled the challenges facing our beneficiaries head on, and we are managing the pandemic in the same way rising to the challenges and continuing our mission to work for the most vulnerable in our society. It’s thanks to your support that we can continue to evolve our services to provide practical support to those who need it most. We will beat this together and I am as always truly grateful that we are in this together, thank you.

Let Diwali continue to light up our lives as we hopefully move towards brighter days. On behalf of our whole Snehalaya family, I wish you and your loved ones a very happy Diwali.

Links:

 
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