Providing Life Skills to 300 Girls living in Slums

by Vacha Charitable Trust Vetted since 2011 Top Ranked Effective Nonprofit Site Visit Verified
Women
Women's Toilet Block

You will be happy to learn that 41 girls in a very poor slum in a semi rural area adjoining the city have encouraged their mothers and brothers and their friends to campaign for clean and adequate number of public toilets for women and girls. There are 4 toilets for 5000 women. The unofficial number is higher. Some of the toilets are worse than the others due to broken doors, window or commodes. Often girls would be late for their school due to long queues to answer nature’s call. The queues are long and it is highly problematic if one has a stomach upset. In slums families hardly ever have indoor toilets. The girls in Vacha’s empowerment programme met their community’s representative in the local self govt. body. Actually the position is held notionally by her but her father has been a leader for a long time and his writ still runs. Girls and their mothers collected signatures in the area and made a presentation asking to repair toilets and build more. The leader was livid. He had never seen anything like this. He could not imagine teens would question his authority. The first thing he did was to cancel his permission for us to use a public space for learning sessions that was under his management and control. By that time the community had become supportive to us and another man with access to another useful space allowed us to run our centre from there. Girls also feel encouraged by our govt.’s strong support for toilets for all and argue from this position.

Girls, mothers and supportive boys and young men had made a survey and taken out a rally in their area. Then they approached Municipality and found out substantial amount of money had been sanctioned and provided of the elected leader to meet urgent needs of the community. After girls’ presentation one single toilet has been repaired, one that is nearest to her/his office in the area. Girls have now presented the case as a health issue in the relevant public department. They are not going to give up the issue. Your good wishes are requested. You have been giving us support through your donations. That is an ongoing process and we are grateful to you for it. This time our need is for your wishes for these girls to succeed in their mission. After all, they have come up to this level of leadership due to support from people like you.

One of the Toilets
One of the Toilets
Collecting Signatures
Collecting Signatures
Brothers support the Rally
Brothers support the Rally
Savita with her Collection & Trophies
Savita with her Collection & Trophies

Hello,

Some good news! We have been supporting empowerment programme for girls from deprived families who live in bastis (slums) of Mumbai. Later some other foundations also contributed to the programme, some in a major way. One of them started a scholarship programme for girls who showed promise academically together with their commitment to bring positive changes in their communities. This has inspired us to take initiative for providing scholarships where possible. The ‘scholarship girls’ are doing well. Among them two have achieved distinction. One of them is Savita.

Savita has been with our programme for several years. We had written about her in context of her community work. After completing a 3 year curriculum at Vacha, she continued through a youth group. She is cheerful and lively but had made it clear from the beginning that she was not going to work for top grades scholastically, that she would rather do street theatre and craft activities. On bagging a scholarship, she joined a 3 year course at the SNDT Women’s University in design. She continued working on design with other kids in her neighbourhood. This time, in her second year in the course, her designs were highly appreciated. She secured 69% in her course and won trophies in the categories of ‘Collection with the Best Melange of Fabrics’ and ‘The Outfit with Best Innovation in Style and Silhouette’ at the fashion exhibition cum sale held at Priya Chhabria Design Studio, Juhu, Mumbai. Savita has been offered an internship with the examining designer, Priyashri Patodia, which she may not take up if it conflicts with her class schedule during the academic term.

You have heard of Sabah from us before. Both these 19 year olds have shown a quiet leadership from the start. Sabah stood first in the college in her second year B.Com. exams this year. She had studied through Urdu at school level and had to switch over to English medium in college. She is the one who had persistently followed an international seminar in her college and was chosen to make a presentation in it. One of the Vacha teachers has been working on English with her. Her brilliance and hard work are innate and the outcome is rewarding for all of us now including all of the kind friends and supporters who contribute to the programme through GlobalGiving. There are many activities we could report but we thought first of the happy news.

 

With best wishes and regards,

Sonal Shukla.

Sabah
Sabah
Chanda
Chanda

Chanda is the leader of a youth group called Star Kids. This is an off shoot of Vacha’s educational programme for girls from deprived families living in slums. “We hold meetings, have discussions on community issues and plan action. We run a youth library and conduct games.”, she says.
 
Chanda’s father died when she was one year old. She is 16 now and has two older brothers. The father had migrated from a village in Uttar Pradesh and made a home in one of the more poor areas at the back of a slum in Santacruz in Mumbai, Maharashtra. It is a small room of barely 120 square feet where she lives with her mother and two brothers. They use a public toilet. The mother has raised the children by selling bananas on the roadside. She has also turned part of the home front in to a small shop space and rented it out. Currently no rent is coming in because they had borrowed money from the tenant that needs to be paid off. The oldest brother had a job in a garment making unit but that has closed down. So he is now jobless. The other brother is doing first year in an undergraduate college.
 
Despite all these impediments, Chanda is generally quite forward looking in life. She enjoys the workshops on photography, street theatre etc. conducted by Vacha Trust. She went through an emotional crisis recently. She had passed her class 10 examination after which students have to apply for admission in junior colleges for classes 11 and 12. Education for girls at this level continues to remain free. Chanda did not get admission anywhere in the initial rounds but then she got into one of the best colleges for class 11. Her mother refused to let her take admission in this college because it was at a distance and she did not want her daughter to have this long commute on a daily basis. Chanda was very keen and insisted on accepting the seat. She was beaten up but held on to her demand. Finally, with intervention from Vacha’s community organiser, the mother agreed.  A compromise was reached. Chanda is now able to attend a fairly good and upcoming college not too far from where she lives. It is her ambition to acquire good qualifications and extricate her family from the circle of poverty.
 
Your support will help Chanda fulfil her aspirations. On the occasion of International Women’s Day (8 March), we appeal to you to donate generously to champion girls like Chanda acquire a good education as well as the soft and hard skills necessary for a productive life in the 21st century.
 
As part of the International Women’s Day campaign, we request you to kindly DONATE on

8 March   from   12:00 AM   to   11:59 PM   EST
                           viz.
8 March   from   10:30 AM   to   9 March   10:29 AM   IST
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8 March   from   05:00 AM   to   9 March   04:59 AM   GMT.

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Pic credit - Liz Oxhorn (PWB)
Pic credit - Liz Oxhorn (PWB)

Shaheen, Farheen and Nausheen, three sisters, were encouraged to join the Vacha programme by the principal of their school in the community of Malvani slums in Mumbai. Apart from receiving academic inputs, they have also worked on publication of girls’ newsletters to highlight their fight against the issues of sanitation and sexual harassment. Lewd comments by boys, assaults and rapes of minors, kidnappings are rampant in this locality. Their mother objects to Burqa, the Veil, and says that if mindsets are not changed, crimes can be committed under a Burqa as well. This is a rare break girls have in life.

 

19 year old Shaheen is in the first year of an undergraduate degree program. She wants to complete her education, work and become independent so that she can have enough savings to pursue a variety of study courses.  Farheen, 16 years in age, is in her 10th grade. Her confidence, leadership, negotiation abilities, stage presence and skills to deal with authorities have improved immensely after joining Vacha. She wants to be an actress but her mother strongly resists this idea. Nausheen idolizes the police didi (literally older sister but also used as a term of respect) who patrols this beat. Hence she would like to grow up to be a police woman. All the three girls would love to play outdoors but unfortunately none of them is allowed to go outside unchaperoned after 4 PM for safety reasons. Academics and future career are of prime importance to them.

 

Poor sanitation in this area makes the residents extremely vulnerable to infectious diseases. The water mafia has a big presence here and this very essential commodity has to be bought at high prices by the poor. This area has what are called illegal hutments on the outskirts erected just using asbestos and tarpaulin sheets. These are demolished time and again but spring back. Open defecation is a curse here with no imminent solution. The sisters live here.

 

Shaheen, Farheen and their father have been suffering from TB for over 2 years now. Nasreen, the oldest sister, has been recently cured of TB and her marriage is scheduled in early 2018. Shaheen and her father in fact have MDR TB, multi-drug resistant TB. The father is also a diabetic. Drugs for TB treatment are expensive and not always available at the government run primary health centres (PHC). Vacha field facilitators have to put up a stiff fight at the PHC at the behest of patients. Superstitions and myths associated with TB aggravate the problem and need constant intervention to be dealt with.

 

In the empowerment programs, Vacha supports the education of Shaheen and Farheen. Vacha is able to provide nutrition and medical support at least to Farheen. Let's usher in 2018 by pledging support to eradicate contagious diseases like TB in such neighborhoods. If this read has intrigued you, please share it with your near and dear ones to bring in cheer all across the world :-)

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Pic credit - Liz Oxhorn (PWB)
Pic credit - Liz Oxhorn (PWB)

Neha is the oldest among 4 siblings, 2 of them are boys. A 17 year old, she has a low paid marketing job. She is to take her 12th grade board examination through a correspondence course. Her father is a driver and the mother works as a housekeeper in a private company. Currently she is living with her grandparents in the same locality as her parents due to a problem. Her parents have imposed several restrictions on her after she fell in love with a boy. They would not allow her to go out, either for work or for lessons and Vacha classes. Her mother wants her to be married off right away. Strong and determined, Neha refused to be bogged down by the circumstances. She had no option other than leaving her parents’ home and moving in with her supportive grandparents so as to retain her focus on work and education.

 

About Vacha, Neha says that Vacha’s teachers and social workers are the only ones who have stood by her through thick and thin. Anything new and experimental stimulates Neha. She joined Vacha’s program of girls’ empowerment in 2013 and has continued ever since, despite her parents’ protests. Sexual harassment and restrictions faced by girls are some of the community challenges that Neha has consistently worked on. The boys in her community used to leer and make vulgar comments to harass girls. Neha, together with others in the Vacha program, began focusing on sexual harassment issues. Awareness on the ill-effects of sexual harassment was created through rallies and street plays. Next, was the campaign to ensure more community toilets are built. Currently substance abuse, a societal evil here, is also her concern.

 

Neha’s Social Message to girls across the globe is

The window of opportunity is when girls are young. If prompt action is not taken now, the opportunity may never come again. Girls may be married off early and may lose this moment of recourse.'

 

We hope girls like Neha will inspire you to donate towards our cause of Girls’ Empowerment. In this festive occasion, please share Neha's narrative with friends and family to support our work and for Vacha girls to have a better life.

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Organization Information

Vacha Charitable Trust

Location: Mumbai, Maharashtra - India
Website: http:/​/​www.vacha.org.in
Project Leader:
Sonal Shukla
Mumbai, Maharashtra India
$36,926 raised of $50,000 goal
 
508 donations
$13,074 to go
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