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Jan 19, 2020

Women Speaking from the Margins

MAITRI network conference
MAITRI network conference

I have just come back from attending the Maitri Network national conference called “Women Speaking from the Margins: Activism, Resistance and Agency” which was held in Pune on 27th and 28th November. Over 250 delegates attended and included Karuna partners, survivors of domestic and sexual violence, academics and  various other civil society organisations.

The event was a real eye opener. In addition to the most commonly discussed issues of domestic and sexual violence and child marriage,  speakers addressed other less talked about topics such as the plight and struggles of single Dalit women who are widowed, divorced or unmarried and the forms of implicit and insidious violence they get subjected to. This was particularly poignant for me to hear as we often tend to forget that violence is not just physical, and that there are other forms of covert violence that can be as destructive and damaging if not more.

Sexual harassment in the workplace was another topic of discussion which highlighted the shocking prevalence of such incidences not only in the informal but also the formal sector, and the various hurdles women have to face when they report incidences of harassment.  What was particularly sad to hear was the level of covert intimidation women face from the very people who are supposed to ensure their protection, thus highlighting the huge gap between legislation and procedural implementation in practice.

Honour killings, caste based sexual exploitation, the additional challenges faced by Muslim and Adivasi women were also discussed, and together with all the other issues raised, formed part of the Pune Declaration (a set of resolutions and demands) which was agreed by all delegates at the end of the 2 day consultation. 

But beyond the excellent presentations and discussions, what was heart warming to witness was the palpable sense of buoyancy and renewed energy among the Maitri network partners, and the renewed sense of faith and hope in the ability and role of the Network in tackling the challenges that still lie ahead in order to end all forms of violence against women and girls from marginalised communities.

Jan 16, 2020

Kiran, aged 5, aims beyond the brick kiln factory

Lining up to taste fresh water for the 1st time
Lining up to taste fresh water for the 1st time

Kiran, aged 5, is one of the youngest in a large family who are part of bonded labour. Migrant workers, they are bonded to a brick kiln to pay off debt accured to pay for food and basic necessities over the coming months. Most children in Kiran's situation start carrying bricks as a way to help their parents work faster and earn the money quicker. Denying children an education, this situation can also create health problems; accidents are common due to the harzardous work environment.

However, Kiran is taking full advantage of a project that provides good education on site. Teachers who are keen to equip children with more options in life by increasing literacy, daily living skills and just as importantly, giving them the space and safety to play as children.

Kiran is becoming literate and at 5 years old can read from 1 to 20, chart the parts of the body, identify flowers and fruits. He attends school regularly and takes an interest in his learning. He has learnt about jobs and roles outside of what had seemed destined to him. Kiran tells staff he wants to become a Doctor. 

Your support goes a long way. Thank you for your donation and for providing children like Kiran the conditions to learn and grow that otherwise would be unavailable to them.

Dec 31, 2019

"I have aspirations now!" - Kaajal, aged 14


Our girls’ hostels work to provide a space that is educational, engaging, safe and fun so that young women have everything they need to focus on becoming who they are, not who they are told to be. 

At the Vishrantwadi hostel in Pune, the staff practice this vision everyday. Providing free room and board throughout the school terms for 100 girls, they care about their students and the women they will one day become. 

Kaajal, 14, knows how difficult life can be. At just 10, she had to help her illiterate father and brothers work in a local quarry breaking rocks in terrible conditions. She would carry rocks through the mine, as she was small enough to fit more easily through its narrow corridors. 

Sadly, during an accident that is an unfortunately routine occurrence, one of her brothers died after a rock fell on his head. Later, her father broke both his legs in a fall at the quarry and she lost another brother to an undiagnosed respiratory illness, very likely the result of the dusty and toxic conditions of the mine. 

Her parents desperately wanted more for Kaajal, and after hearing about the hostel, encouraged her to apply. When she first arrived, she was overwhelmed. “I couldn’t write my own name. I was so scared I couldn’t speak. I had no confidence.”

Now, three years on, she is transformed into a child with hopes, dreams and the knowledge that she can achieve them. She is working hard at her favourite subjects, maths and English, and feels confident about the future. 

I feel I can speak boldly with anyone now,” Kaajal says. “I have aspirations, which I didn’t have before. Now, when my sisters see me, they feel inspired and encouraged to study too.”

Despite her young age, she feels sure she wants to study hard and get involved in social development, providing water, electricity, food and education to those that really need it. 

I want the people around me to have a better life. I don’t want them to have the kind of life my family had.”

All over India, your donations are giving girls like Kaajal the chance to lead a different life than the one they are born into one that they choose for themselves. 

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