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.