Empower girls like Priti in slums in Pune, India

by Karuna Trust
Programme Manager Jonathan Clark
Programme Manager Jonathan Clark

As Karuna programme manager for this project I visited twice during this period (November 2014& Feb 2015) to review project activities and go through the narrative and financial reports with the team.  I have been pleased to see the level of recording of project data and reporting improve steadily over the past two years and see this current year-end report as a significant step forward in the quality of their reporting. The project now has good systems in place for tracking the number of girls participating in each program and for assessing the impact of the work on broader issues affecting adolescent girls.

This is a long- standing community-based project that has been working effectively for more than ten years in the slum districts around Pune. It draws many of its project staff from within the beneficiary community and works in a holistic way to address the specific issues facing adolescent girls living in the slums. This consistency has enabled the project team to develop and refine their experience, skills and approach over time, whilst building strong and effective community networks. For example they have developed new advocacy skills through their participation in the Maitri Network and this now gives them the confidence to liaise effectively with police, local schools and other local authorities over issues affecting adolescent girls.

Another significant new development is that they are now involving adolescent boys in some of their classes and awareness raising activities. Karuna welcomes this development as we see it as essential to involve boys as well as girls in seeking to bring about a sustainable, long- term shift in gender attitudes. 

The project team are busy implement the goals and targets thay have set for the coming year. After years of working intensively at a grassroots community level they are now extending their advocacy activities to a broader range of higher level stakeholders including police, teachers and local schools. This is enabling them to have a broader impact on the issues affecting the lives of their beneficiaries.

There have been challenges though. The project needs permission to run study support classes at the local school from local government. As a result of bureaucratic procedures this has proven difficult. Project staff members are often from poor backgrounds and are not used to interacting with government officials. Project staff have had to learn confidence in dealing with people in positions of authority. 

The project has found resistance in enrolling women and girls from some religious minority communities. Traditional attitudes hold that women’s place is in the home. Families also have safety concerns around letting girls travel on public transport or walking long distances. Project staff have developed communication skills in sensitively assuring parents that letting their daughters travel to study and work is best for them and their families in the long run.

In the last six months the project have delivered services to women and girls in the surrounding slums of Pune. The numbers reached are reported bellow.

Life Skills  

  • 135 women and girls attended study support and life skills classes
  • 308 women and girls attended day visits to the bank and police stations. Girls learn how to open a bank account and file a complaint to the police.
  • 88 women and girls attended workshops on reproductive health education. Girls learn about their bodies and they changes they undergo. They also learn about the dangers of early pregnancy.

Vocational Training

  • 30 women and girls attended spoken English classes
  • 57 women and girls attended basic and advanced tailoring.
  • 52 women and girls attended basic and advanced computer training.

Anaemia Awareness

  • 143 women and girls attended nutritional recipe demonstration to combat anaemia and vitamin-a deficiency.
  • 995 women and girls attended street plays to create public awareness on anaemia.
  • 208 women and girls attended haemoglobin check-up camps 

Reducing Gender Inequality 

  • 120 women and girls attended awareness workshops on female infanticide to local women. The benefits of women to society are explained. 
  • 46 women and girls attended premarital counselling workshops to guard girls against domestic abuse. 
  • 48 women and girls attended awareness sessions on the Domestic Violence Act and women’s rights within the home. 

Educational Support Classes

  • 657 women and girls attended support classes to support their continuing education.

Recently, Jonathon Clark, Karuna Trust Programme Manager for the project visited the team in India to monitor the work and offer guidance. Here are his thoughts on the recent anti-violence against women campaign carried out by the project:

"When I visited, the team were in the middle of a fortnight long campaign focussing on the issue of violence against women. The campaign has been organised through the Maitri network; a network of women’s organisations from different parts of India that was set up and facilitated by Karuna Trust. The network enables representatives of women’s organisations to come together to share their experiences and organise nationwide campaigns on issues of relevance to women from dalit and other marginalised backgrounds. Involvement in this network has enabled the project team to broaden the scope of their work. After three years of working intensively at a grassroots community level they are now extending their awareness raising activities to  include police, teachers and local schools. This is allowing them to have a broader impact on the issues affecting the lives of their beneficiaries.

The team was obviously very excited by the campaign, and feeling confident and empowered. Over the previous week the team had organised a rally of 200 women and girls that was covered by all the local papers. They also conducted an awareness raising session with 100 teachers on the Sexual Harassment Act and Domestic Violence Act; awareness raising sessions with 700 adolescent boys on the theme of respect for women; and two sessions with local police on domestic violence and sexual harassment involving 100 local policemen. Earlier in the month they had organised a training in Pune for representatives of 40 other women’s organisations from different parts of India, focussing on the Domestic Violence Act and recent legislation on sexual harassment.

The project leader Karunaprabha expressed her satisfaction “Before we felt we were working in isolation but now we are able to learn from other organisations and use their experience to take our work to a new level. Now we are even able to become a leading women’s organisation and provide leadership and training to other organisations. I am now doing things I never dreamed I’d be able to do."

The project continues to work toward its target of reducing the level of disadvantage, suffering and gender discrimination facing women and adolescent girls living in the slum districts of Pune. In order to help them to do this the project team gather information on their activities as well as the results of these activities. This allows us to evaluate what is working and what needs changing.

We are really happy the way the project is progressing. From April 2014 to September 2014:


  • 308 girls visited the police station and the bank to learn vital life skills such as lodging a police complaint or opening a bank account. This will be the first time many of these girls have ventured outside the slum. The exercise builds a lot of confidence.
  • The project provides English, computer and tailoring classes as part of the drive to get women into well paid employment. This gives them a degree of independence and security against being trapped in abusive family situations. 57 girls attended tailoring classes of whom 42 are now in paid employment. 34 students got jobs through the projects basic computer training.
  • Anaemia is a problem in the project area. Poor and inadequate diets mean girls are often lacking essential nutrients. The project challenges this problem through health checks and educating women and girls on the importance of diet. 143 women and girls attended a nutritional recipe demonstration organised by the project team. 208 girls attended haemoglobin check-up camps.
  • India has recently been in the news regarding its treatment of women. The project looks to safeguard women and girls safety through education on their rights. The project put on workshops for 46 girls on domestic violence awareness.

“On completion of my course from the project I received a certificate. With this I was able to get a loan from the local project self-help group to start my own business. Now I am very happy”

Rajashree, 23, lives with her husband, son, daughter, mother-in-law, father-in-law and brother-in-law in the area of Kasalagar, Pune, India. Prior to coming into contact with the project she spent most of her time at home cleaning and caring for her family. She was dependent on her husband and the £150 per month he earned from his job as a driver. One day she saw a notice for the stitching and tailoring classes provided by the project. She went home and discussed it with her family, who agreed it was a good idea to enrol in the course.

“I started my tailoring class, there my tailoring teacher is very good in teaching skills, whenever I got trouble in cutting and stitching, she explains me and makes things easy for me to learn”.

With the help of her teacher, Rajashree cut and stitched her first blouse within 20 days of starting the course. After that, she started by saving money for her family and friends by doing their stitching for them at home.

However she quickly progressed in confidence and decided to go the local women’s self-help group run by the project to seek a loan to start a small tailoring business. Despite some initial problems Rajashree quickly became a skilled tailor and currently she is earning her own income through her business. Now she feels much more independent and has money of her own to use as she needs.

Rajashree is very thankful to the project for the opportunity it has given her. Without it she would still be confined to home and dependent on her husband’s salary for income.



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Organization Information

Karuna Trust

Location: London, England - United Kingdom
Website: http:/​/​www.karuna.org/​
Project Leader:
Steven Murdoch
Staff Member
London, UK United Kingdom

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