I hope all of you are doing well and fighting CORONA 19 successfully. Best wishes from Vacha team for this.
On our side we were very excited as all the Women’s Day programmes with participants in Girls’ Empower project were going very well. There were Fund Days for mothers and other women in their families, competitions in dance, street theatre, essays on topics like ‘That day I was very angry’ or ‘Why I love my friends’ etc. so that girls’ learn to express themselves in many ways. The entire team had also been working for celebration of 30 years of Vacha on March 17 but the COVID 19 struck before that. We had to cancel all that we had planned.
For social distancing the community organizers have had to keep away from bastis (‘slums) which are very crowded and have poor sanitation. The community organizers and the coordinators keep in touch with every girl and some supportive boys on cell phone and are there for them in case of emergency. They also emphasis on the necessary care that must be taken for personal safety and for stopping spread of CORONAVIRUS. However, in the midst of so much poverty and crowded living it is difficult for them to observe the necessary health care. All that we have been able to do is to distribute soap and one week grocery in bastis in the adjoining district of Kalyan-Dombivli where the residents are even poorer that most bastis in Mumbai that we cover. 94 per cent of Indian workforce is in informal sector. Our girls’ fathers and brothers are daily wagers or often run small unregistered shops, handcarts with goods, drive three wheelers with passengers, contract workers without any security in small factories and so on. Most Hindu women from more conservative Northen areas of the country as do Muslim women from several parts stay home or do home based piece work. In one large area inhabited mostly by a Maharashtrian dalit community(formerly treated as untouchables and still considered very low caste, in the very structured Hindu caste system, despite positive discrimination by the State) women work as maids in for middle class families. The CORONA 19 situation is in its initial stage. Worse is expected. Attempts are made to have strict lockouts and warnings that are not yet fully successful.
Your continued support keeps our morale up as usual.
With many thanks and best wishes to survive in best way during this world crisis.
Season's Greeting and wishes for a great 2020 to all peaple with world peace.
There cannot be peace with so many people below poverty line with girls deprived of education and health. All of us at Vacha thank you especially for reaching out to help such girls that Vacha works with in bastis (slums) in Mumbai and a neighbouring district. The govt. has a programme of slum demolition in which the old and legal residents are given small apartemnts of 200 to 300 sq. ft. for a family in newly constructed builings. The same poor families shift to such SRA (Slum Rehabilitation Authority) buildings. There is practically no orientation and training for a different way of life for the residents. Families are often very big and they can no longer use the outside space that they did in the original hutment colonies. At times there are even goats inside that they used to tie outside home. The best part is they now have toilets inside the apartment. This helps girls because they need additional access to privacy during menstruation period. The old SRA buildings can be in bad shape due to bad construction and lack of repair work.
The gorls' situation does not change because of the same old mindsets of there mostly migrant families who bring their ideas from their villages in backward ideas. Noone, not a single organisation has gone in to girls' problems and needs in these housing projects. Vacha has extended its work to cover deprived girls in SRA buildings where they have said in our initial survey that safety is an issue for them. We will continue updating on this work when we report on this project. Work in bastis is going well and the kids are in a great celebratory mood. Christmas and New Year have become part of social life at all levels in Mumbai.
Mannu (the name changed on request) is one of our programme participants in Netivli-patrupul area. Netivli is an old village that is now turning in to a basti (slum) with influx of poor people from other states seeking a livelihood in nearby townships. Within this area is Patri pul, a locality of over 15 thousand families living in shanty rooms made entirely from patri i.e. tin sheets. It gets terribly hot in afternoons. The area now comes under Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation, in Thane district adjoining Mumbai. Vacha has worked here for 8 years on girls’ issues, last two without any grant. We had hired a patri room for our work but had to leave due to a demand from the room owner. Fortunately, we now have support from a corporate body and have been able to hire a small room in residential building. We had functioned from any available space anywhere in the area for months until then. The girls’ response has been tremendously good. Mannu is one such girl participant. She is about 15 years old.
We had bought stationary to store in the new place. We had never got anything stolen from anywhere in last 30 years. This time it was different. Our community organizer had stamped ‘Vacha’ on each of the items. Mannu saw such a stamped painting brush with a young cousin who said some older boys were distributing stationery to young children. Mannu located and confronted them at home. They got scolding and sometimes beatings from parents. With their help Mannu visited each and every home where beneficiaries of stolen stationary lived and recovered the entire batch. This could have been dangerous. The boys’ parents could have denied the accusation and fought with her; the boys themselves could waylay and attack her. There might be derision in the community at her bold steps. She risked all this and managed to regain our lost stationary and brought the miscreants, a few 12 or 13 year old, to Vacha office. They apologized and showed how the theft had taken place.
Mannu had learnt life skills like confrontation, cooperation, negotiation and speaking out at our course on soft and hard skills. She was active in girl centred community work and in leadership training workshops. But the spunk and courage were all her own. We salute her.
Warm greetings from Vacha Team. Once again we thank you for your continued support to our project with girls. As we built resources we began to let boys also to have access to some of them. They too are deprived children but they are privileged over girls in matters of nutrition, education and mobility. We now have a gender sensitisation programme for them and they participate enthusiastically to support their sisters at home.
We have some happy news to share with you. One new programme we have started recently is a library for youth (age group 10 to 18) in Golavli, a former village now included in Kalyan- Dombivli Municipal Corporation. The area now has some slums where migrants from poor and backward areas in the country live. It has books in Marathi, Hindi and English for children and teenagers. Our programme participants come from homes that do not have a reading tradition. Often the parents are semiliterates and also too overworked to have energy to read books. They cannot afford to buy books and not all get even a newspaper. But, within a month, the library picked up and now over 150 kids visit it to borrow books or to attend library events like reading out, dramatisation from books, quizzes etc. Some students from a neighbouring school rush in to catch up with a book even in the short school recess. We had found out that it is compulsory for even schools for the poor to have a library but the teachers do not issue books out of fear that children may damage them in some way and the teachers would have to pay a fine. They also do not have the vision to organise library events and help youth explore the wonderful world or books. We will expand the programme gradually.
Once again we thank you for all that you have done for us.
It gives Team Vacha great pleasure to share pictures from a training centre cum coordination office with you. Several of you have contributed for getting a small place of its own after 30 years of existence. Space in Mumbai is highly expensive and rents are sky high and never is the tenancy on long term basis now. A permanent space, however small, was needed for Vacha to survive. We had tried very hard to collect funds to buy space and had done locally. However, in the last phase, it was through contributions from GlobalGiving platform that made it possible to get this place. So a very big Thank You to all of you and to GlobalGiving. I am sharing a couple of pictures from a girls’ training. We will be putting up pictures from other parts of this 400 sq. ft. Place as they become more functional.
Vacha coordinates a programme of Learning Community of Girls supported by and planned with EMpower Foundation. Seven NGOs working in poor neighbourhoods participate in a project of empowering girls through leadership skills and skills in locating issues affecting their lives, planning, budget making, monitoring etc. and encourage them to own and execute the project themselves. They have carried out such projects at local level and share strategies and outcomes. This year they conducted a survey of girls experiences on issues of mobility i.e. access to public playgrounds, Public toilets and Public stands for newspaper reading, a special Mumbai feature in poor areas. The findings revealed threats and demeaning experiences. The survey was titled The Time Is Now with demands through advocacy. Girls from all centres including Vacha called a press conference to release the survey report and a charter of demands on April 12 at a Press Club. The press conference was covered by 10 daily newspapers and 3 TV channels. It is going to various authorities.
We continue to work with adolescent girls from deprived communities and thanks again for your regular support. Do visit our website www.vacha.org.in from time to time.
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