I hope this report finds you all well. Sorry there has been a slight delay in updates - I have been away from the office visiting the project, spending time with the team and meeting beneficiaries. I'd like to take this opportunity to share a few of my experiences there.
Dr Mune and her team of young women operate from a small office, tucked in the corner of a street in the Vishrantwadi area: one of the older slums of Pune. She has around her an impressive team of young women, each one dressed in a simple white sari, which seems to be something of a uniform amongst the team. Each woman has her own story of slum life, and each is now helping others who are in a situation they know all too well.
As we walk through the different slums and visit the various activities - sewing training, nutritional awareness workshops, study support classes - the degree of respect that Dr Mune and her team command is obvious. Everyone is friendly and welcoming, not least many of the old beneficiaries who come pouring out of their houses to give their thanks and invite us for tea.
The situation is largely the same of all of the girls in the slums. Their lives consist of being confined to their houses, helping their mothers with the chores until their family has found someone suitable for them to marry. But thanks to this work, that situation is changing now.
We sit in a circle and many of the girls tell me their thoughts and personal stories. Some of them have had their marriages fixed recently. Indeed, they will probably all marry at some point, it being impossible not to in this society. But they have managed to delay their marriages until they are 21 or 22. In this time they have completed their education, have knowledge of their rights, and have gained self-confidence. Some have started working and others want to continue to study. Had it not been for the project, they tell me, they would have been married at 15 and not thought anything of it.
On the floor of a house in another slum, a group of younger girls from the locality gather and tell me what they have been learning. One girl of 13 delivers a most incredible and unrehearsed speech about the importance of keeping ones important documents, and especially marriage certificate, safe. "If we don't keep our marriage certificates, our husbands might do anything - they might beat us. Then, if we went to the police they would ask us for proof of our marriage, and we would have nothing to show." The girls have all been on 'exposure visits' the police station, and know that their husbands aren't allowed to hit them. Their mothers beam proudly.
This year the project team have begun activities in 3 new slums, bringing the same benefit to the girls of new communities. All of these girls will be the confident, informed, self-reliant mothers of the next generation. Thank you all for donating to this life changing work.
Children in a slum
New slum area where project activities have begun