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Providing Life Skills to 300 Girls living in Slums

by Vacha Charitable Trust
Providing Life Skills to 300 Girls living in Slums
Vacha's intervention with girls during COVID-19
Vacha's intervention with girls during COVID-19

Dear friends,

Some of you already know what Vacha is doing with participants of our Girls’ Empowerment programmes in bastis in Mumbai and Kalyan-Dombivli part of Thane district. All ‘slum demolition’ programmes are off currently and that is a relief. Of the 18 basti centres in the areas covered by Vacha, we have distributed grocery packets to 15 bastis and 683 families so far. Each packet contains 5 kilos of wheat flour, 5 kilos rice, 3 kilos pulses or lentils, 3 litre oil, 3 kilos potato and 2 Kilos onion and 4 soap cakes. This is for a fortnight. We did planning and made preparations in initial period of lock down and began distribution from March 30. Some of the challenges we have faced are as follows:

  1. Most of the grocers do not accept payment by cheques and insist on cash payment.
  2. Prices keep increasing constantly.
  3. Shopkeepers run out of stock due to hoarding by those who can afford it.
  4. Other residents in the area resented that only Vacha girls and boys and their families were being supported.
  5. Due to frequent curfews and lockdowns so Vacha team found it difficult to visit the bastis, at times.
  6. Difficulty in transferring cash due to total unavailability of public transport.
  7. Every single stationery shop is closed so we could not get notebooks and paper for girls to do interesting things at home.

Despite this Vacha team has taken risk and covered as many centres as possible. The trust board appreciates this and is grateful as well as concerned about the team’s own safety from infection. They have been frequently told not to stretch too much and take care but they feel committed to girls and their families and valiantly go on. If there are instances of positive cases or community transmission, they will be immediately withdrawn. All of them use masks and gloves and girls and their parents are encouraged to have masks. A parent comes along to help the girl carry the grocery home.

Solutions and Happy Moments:

  1. Vacha team has taken risks and covered as many centres as possible in 4 days from March 30th to April 3. The process will continue for two more days.
  2. Each community organizer and coordinator is in touch with all girls for emotional support and counselling. Each office level team member remains connected to the special programme under CORONA threat and works on budgeting, fund raising and management from home.
  3. There is a serious problem of transport. Local buses, trains, metro, taxis and 3 wheeler autos are not working. However, we got help from a journalist husband of a team member who had a curfew pass and who helped us send salary cheques and other materials to team members in his van. Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal officers provide their vans for grocery distribution.
  4. Girl leaders and some of the male peers in gender programmes in bastis have been amazing. They maintain names of those who receive packets and deal with grocers and local residents, if any problem arises. They also remain connected with other girls in the group for any contingency and keep their morale up.
  5. Most of our funders have offered support in general and approved spending even though exact budgets could not be made. They have also been kind and permitted spending in basti centres that are not even under their own project grants.
  6. Friends and strangers are giving small but much valued donations for our current basti work.                                                                                                                         

The case of Shelar Chowk:

While grocery distribution in most places was peaceful, it was also painful as many more wanted the packets but we could give them only to our programme participants due to paucity of funds. At shelar chowk, a basti with sizable number of poor Scheduled Castes (formerly called untouchables as they cleaned dirty toilets and skinned dead animals etc.) along with settlers from other States we had practically a riot on our hand. Despite presence of 3 police inspectors and 5 police constables and support of the Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation, we had to withdraw after distribution of only 25 packets. Currently the rest are kept in an apartment of a coordinator’s uncle and we are strategizing for reaching out to the remaining participants. It may become necessary to give just cash to the remaining 43 participants. Only grocers and chemists can keep shops open so the amount will have to be spent only on useful things.                                                                                                                       

The case of Netivli:

Netivli Is a village turned slum in process of fast development in nearby townships. It has attracted poor workers from at least 5 different States. We could not reach there as there was a curfew. Today no one could step out for basti work. A quarantined man had surreptiously come out to attend a wedding festivity where, it seems, over 300 people were present. The event itself has broken strong lockdown and the COVID 19 positive man has put many in danger. There is total curfew now as individuals who have interacted with that man from the wedding celebration are being located and contacted for testing.  Netivli in any case was under a local curfew yesterday. We will visit it again in a couple of days.                                                           

A big Thank You to all of you for being with us and caring about intersectionally deprived girls in these stressful times.

We hope you are taking adequate care and remain safe from CORONAVIRUS.

With best wishes and regards,
Vacha Trust Board and Vacha Team

Girl Leaders in bastis distributing grocery items
Girl Leaders in bastis distributing grocery items
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Soap distribution in community centres by Youth
Soap distribution in community centres by Youth

Dear friends,

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.

Vacha Youth performance on women's day
Vacha Youth performance on women's day
Elocution competition
Elocution competition
Girls sharing their struggles
Girls sharing their struggles
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Season's Greetings 2019-20
Season's Greetings 2019-20


Dear friends,

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.


Yagna Parmar

Co Director

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Basti in Netivli, Kalyan
Basti in Netivli, Kalyan

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.

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We decorated our library
We decorated our library

Dear Friends,


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.

Story telling session
Story telling session
Borrowing a book from library
Borrowing a book from library
A girl mentor taking a session
A girl mentor taking a session
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Organization Information

Vacha Charitable Trust

Location: Mumbai, Maharashtra - India
Project Leader:
Sonal Shukla
Mumbai, Maharashtra India
$44,000 raised of $50,000 goal
772 donations
$6,000 to go
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