Life skills training of 300 girls in Mumbai slums

by Vacha Charitable Trust

Dear Friends,

 

This project is being deactivated as it is fully paid up. No words can fully express our gratitude to all of you who have supported it from October 2011. It was meant to support 300 girls for training in life skills for a year. But with your contributions and support from other individuals and organisations we could go way beyond that. In the last financial year alone a target of 600 participants in an intensive programme was attained. The total number reached through direct interventions was 5912. Learning sessions in several bastis (slums) over the years could take place entirely because of your donations through GlobalGiving.  We have now registered another and very similar project on GG and request you to donate through that for us to continue our work with poor girls from deprived communities. Our new site is

We request all donors to visit this site. And we request the recurring donation to be please directed to the new site.  https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/life-skills-training-for-poor-girls-in-slums-in-india/

Several girls who were 12 or older when the project was initiated are now in junior or senior college. With some command over spoken English and ability to use computers as well as with other soft and hard skills learnt from Vacha sessions, they are beginning to find work through which they support their education. They could have hardly imagined this as their mothers have had very little formal education. We sincerely thank you and all the other individuals and institutions that made their progress in life possible. We are sharing a few stories of girls who have begun to take control of their own lives and become active in the community. The names have been changed to protect their identities. All of you are welcome to visit the project and meet these and other girls if you or your friends  ever visit Mumbai.

Smita’s Story:

Smita always had leadership traits in her that needed to be nurtured. She had joined Vacha activities soon after Class 4 as a 10 year old. After completing Class IX she successfully resisted being married off. Today many girls in our project are fully aware that it is illegal for parents to marry them off before they turn 18. Then they have full rights as adults to make their decisions, though there is often a great deal of pressure on them. Today Smita is in the last year of college studying a combined course in social sciences. She supports her own education by working in a mall after college hours. She has negotiated to get a placement near her home and college and for a raise in her salary. She now earns Rs.13,000/- (USD 200 approx) a month that is considered a good salary for an under graduate and inexperienced part time worker. Her early exposure to computer learning and use in Vacha classes has helped her in her work.

Durga’s story:

Today Durga enrolled in a college of pharmacy and will land a good job as she graduates. Vacha had directed her to another organisation that gave her a scholarship. Durga remains a community level volunteer with Vacha. She had been at the forefront for removing parked bikes opposite women’s public toilets because young men would hang out there and tease girls going to the facility. Their homes in the slum do not have toilets attached so using public toilets was a must. One of our reports has earlier   mentioned an exhibition of photographs girls had taken on Unsafe Places for Girls that had covered the scene near the toilets. A major newspaper covered the exhibition and published this particular photograph with boys on their bikes outside women’s toilets. One guy’s face could be seen clearly. His mother came with 50 others to protest and threatened Durga and her family with dire consequences. Also in the crowd were people who hated the leadership Durga and her sister show in community activities and the fact that Durga insists on acquiring a college degree. Durga remained calm and dealt with the situation in a mature way. Her family was witness to the kind of work Vacha is doing in the area and supported her. The crisis simmered down gradually.

Now the parking space has been shifted elsewhere and Durga is associated with the Right To Pee, a campaign for safe and clean toilets for women and girls in the city.

Khushi’s Story:

Khushi’s community is conservative. Girls are not encouraged to be out in public much. At one stage some mothers had told us ‘to control girls. They are so happy coming out of your sessions that they laugh aloud in street too’. Today Khushi and her friends are at the forefront of public events like rallies for girls’ safety and in support of girls’ education. Khushi takes a lead in creating small skits to perform as street theatre to draw people’s attention to the unfairness of gender discrimination. She has discovered her creative abilities and writes for every newsletter that the group brings out. Khushi writes poetry too. All seminars and public events Vacha organizes on girls’ issues have participation of girls in foyar events and in main sessions. Khushi is there always. She says she loves to speak out about the issues she or her friends speak. Obviously she is a leader in making. She is quite good in studies and is in her class 12, the final year of the secondary school education/junior college. She sometimes needs support to pay for her educational needs but otherwise manages on her own. We hope she is able to acquire a good education. She can become a good and capable elected leader if everything works out.

 We are aware that such successes are a drop in the ocean. Much more needs to be done for comprehensive development and empowerment of poor girls but such progress in individual lives encourages us and we are happy to share these stories with you, our supporters and well wishers. Thanks for being there for us. Please keep in touch and visit Vacha’s website www.vacha.org.in

And once again please visit our new site https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/life-skills-training-for-poor-girls-in-slums-in-india/  and keep us and the girls in your hearts.

With gratitude,

Sonal, Medhavinee and others in Vacha Team

Girl Achievers
Girl Achievers

Dear friends,

Hurray Vacha and Girls have done it again!!

June and July were again that time of the year when at Vacha we really gear up to support our girls to negotiate with their families for allowing them to continue education as well as enrol in streams that they aspire to.

It is not always easy, especially when even in the cit like Mumbai the secondary school is not very close to the place you stay or the so called best colleges need travel by train or bus. Chances become bleak if peers from your neighbourhood or cousins / sibling are from the secondary school or college of your choice. In India now most of the entrance exams are online and our girls find it difficult to complete this process without our support as their access to internet is mostly through Vacha. 

We are happy to report to you that in spite of all these odds, there is not a single educational drop out from the Vacha girls. 100% girls have continued their education.

A small scholarship Vacha gave them, thanks to your contributions also was a benefitting factor, as this nominal scholarship incentive was a big help for girls to take care of their educational expenses. Being a recipient of this scholarship was seen as a prestige by the parents and girls. 

In the beginning of the year we had added the support books for their school text books popularly known as Guides or digests to the mobile library so as to help them in studies.

In addition to this, On the Occasion of 15thAugust, India’s Independence Day, girls from Vacha Centresreleased their 13th Edition of Newsletter titled ‘Hamari Battein’ (Our Voices) in their bastis.

The current project is coming to an end. With your support and good will, we wish to work with more girls in a new centre for girls’ training in life skills. It will assure continuity and regularity in trainings and workshops for girls who are poor and live in slums in Mumbai and nearby places. We request you to contribute generously to our new project ‘Girls Centre in Mumbai for Life Skill Training’. The link ishttp://www.globalgiving.org/projects/life-skills-training-annually-for-poor-girls-in-mumai/

Girl
Girl's Participation in Online Admission
News Letter Release
News Letter Release
Online Admission is not Easy Task
Online Admission is not Easy Task
Street play during Rally
Street play during Rally

Hello friends,

It is very hot and humid in Mumbai right now. Onset of monsoon is expected by mid June. A lot of open air activities must take place before that.  One of them was a much needed rally to demand more , cleaner and safe toilets for women and girls. Vacha is very active in the nearly 5 year old Right to Pee campaign for such toilets. Men are known to relieve themselves in the open and behind waste heaps of parked trucks. Apart from the inconvenience, these sites can also make women and girls vulnerable to sexual attacks.

In a series of discussions with girls in Malvani, the second largest slum in India after Dharavi, the toilet and garbage disposal issues were taken up for campaigning against. Six groups from various bastis (‘slums’) got involved as this is a common problem in all poor neighbourhoods.  Boys were encouraged to participate also.  On May 23 about 150 , mostly girls,  got together in Malvani. Girls divided themselves in 3 groups to work on Signature Collecting , Slogans Shouting and Street Theatre Performance.  Girls had already informed local police about the event and written to the Solid Waste Disposal and other relevant Municipal departments. The local response was amazing. This is a problem  faced by all, men too. Hygiene is everybody’s issue. Very few in a slum have indoor toilets.   What was surprising was the media response. Times of India carried a report in its tabloid Mumbai Mirror, Radio Mirchi  interviewed  Deepa Pawar of Vacha in Hndi for a popular programme, Maharshtra Times, a major Marathi daily reported the campaign and TV 9 covered it for its channel. Links for the reports in English are given here. Please do have a look.

The immediate impact of the campaign is big and the residents  are now optimistic about getting decent toilets. The local authorities have woken up and the toilets are suddenly cleaner, being washed daily instead of once in a way. The campaign is still on. The matter is being taken up for impacting the development plan for Mumbai and with ward authorities.  A women’s group is formed to support girls  for monitoring state of toilets. The girls had originally started with rehearsing for a play, making banners, writing to elected representatives  feel encouraged by thousands of signatures collected and by the tremendous support they have go locally. Girls feel empowered by such encouragement and by acceptance of their  leadership role  in the community.

Girls collect Signatures during Rally
Girls collect Signatures during Rally
Posters prepared for the rally
Posters prepared for the rally

Links:

A Landmark Year
A Landmark Year

Hello friends,

We want to share some happy news. Vacha Trust completes 25 years of its formal existence as a charity on March 19th. It has been a fulfilling journey of working on issues of women and girls. We had actually started working from 1987 but had not registered as a trust until 1990. We had some stressed periods due to shortage of resources but, with good will of supporters like you and others, we survived and flourished. We wish you could all be with us to celebrate this mile stone. Encouraged by it we now rededicate ourselves to conducting programs in life skills for girls and train hundreds of girls a year. We are approaching many agencies and individuals for support. We hope you will also visit the project no. 16755 at https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/life-skills-training-annually-for-poor-girls-in-mumai/ and continue to support our project of life skills training for girls from impoverished families living in slums. We sincerely hope you will also visit our website from time to time.

The last quarter in the project had two major events. One was the release of newsletters in all the 17 poor neighbourhoods, where Vacha is active, on the Indian Republic Day. In six communities it was their 12th newsletter. In a new community, girls start with making posters and leaflets and then gradually acquire skills and confidence to create own newsletters. The other event was celebration of Women’s Day in the same areas where the girls chose to treat it like Mothers’ Day and bonded with mothers to discuss new social realities that they all live in and their impact on girls’ lives. The topics vary such as girls’ aspirations for further education, for fashion and dress code, mothers’ situation about domestic chores and so on.

Vacha’s active participation in the core group of NGOs working on Right To Pee, a campaign for safe a clean public toilets for women continues. On Women’s Day the govt. awarded it for being a strong women led citizens’ campaign. To the campaigns demand for toilets for women in public spaces, Vacha has added a demand for repairs and maintenance of toilets in slum areas, where people do not have the facility at home and the state of public toilets are dirty and very inconvenient for women and girls.

 Currently we have only planned a get together of Vacha team and volunteers on March 19 when we actually complete 25 years but hope to have more events through the year if resources permit. We reaffirm our appreciation of your support and good will and welcome your good wishes for the occasion.

Making a public Presentation
Making a public Presentation
Rally to demand free and clean public toilets
Rally to demand free and clean public toilets
Girls with their Newsletters on Republic Day
Girls with their Newsletters on Republic Day
Celebrating Women
Celebrating Women's Day with mothers

Links:

Season
Season's Greeting

Dear friends,

Vacha Team sends Season’s Greetings and Best Wishes for 2015.

We take this opportunity to thank you once again for your generosity and for your active concern for empowerment of deprived girls who, for most of you, live in a far away country. All of us truly appreciate this.

Communication Workshop:

Our girls live in families that have migrated from very poor regions where conservative traditions prevail. Communication across generations as well as gender is not very direct. Girls are discouraged from talking to father and male relatives. A girl may talk to her mother and sisters freely but not necessarily be able to share her thoughts and feelings fully. With brothers also there is limited communication. Her friends, all female, are different but then her mobility is largely restricted.  A communication workshop was held in one large and conservative community focusing on conversation within family. It was the first time ever that such a topic was raised with girls in this community which is relatively new to Vacha programme. First day there was a discussion in which girls shared where they feel stifled, angry or upset but cannot express themselves in words without fear of repercussions. It was suggested by trainers that communication can be non verbal too and that people do express that way but we had to learn the right way to do it. A whole lot of non verbal communication ways and their pros and cons and possible impact were discussed. The powerless have to learn to maneuver the situation so that their point of view, dissent or demand can be communicated without negative consequences for them. The response was tremendous.  Girls were creative in talking about various situations and solutions were sought collectively. Next day they practiced what they had learnt and saw the importance of using silence as a method of communication.

This kind of activity is something of tight rope walking. Strife within family has to be discouraged. Family is the only support system for girls as the State does not have a good and comprehensive welfare policy. Yet girls must also become active and self confident individuals. We are happy to report that local Vacha staff has been able to build trust and good will in the community. We look forward to sharing girls’ experiences of using the newly acquired communication skills and their impact.

Safety Issues:

Safety issues of girls are becoming a major concern. With the ratio for women in Mumbai being 832 per 1000 men, sexual harassment and assaults can only increase. Besides discussions on safety, groups of girls visited police stations to learn about processes involved in assuring safety for women and girls in public spaces. They created leaflets based on what they had learnt and shared the information with others in the community. One group also joined a rally organized by a youth group for spreading awareness and demanding action against the culprits.

 Remember Rehana?

We have written about Rehana in earlier reports. She is the girl who could not open her mouth because of an accident when she fell face down and her dentures closed tight. Vacha’s social worker Deepa organized a subsidized surgery. Vacha supplemented what her family could collect. This was possible because of contributions you make. Well, the good news is that she has just won second prize in a photography competition in her college that has over a thousand students.  Rehana is naturally on Cloud Nine! It is the first success in her life and she hopes to become a professional photographer some day. She had learnt photography in a Vacha workshop but does not own a camera. Though new technology has made it a less expensive hobby but it is still out of bounds for poor girls. So let us celebrate Rehana’s victory in this festive season.

We request you to consider in future our long term programme for girls' training in life skills. Its objectives are to help them become productive members in the economy and active participants in civic life. While this project funding is nearly coming to an end, the long term project is at :http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/life-skills-training-annually-for-poor-girls-in-mumai/      Please do visit it and also our website for more information.

Once again we wish you the best and hope to have your continued support and good will through GlobalGiving in the coming year.

Girls
Girls' Visit to the Police Station
Communication Workshop
Communication Workshop
March Against Sexual Harassment
March Against Sexual Harassment
Rehana, Prize Winner in Photogrpahy
Rehana, Prize Winner in Photogrpahy

Links:

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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

Funded Project!

Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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