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Training Space for 600 Poor Girls in Mumbai

by Vacha Charitable Trust
Training Space for  600 Poor Girls in Mumbai
Training Space for  600 Poor Girls in Mumbai
Training Space for  600 Poor Girls in Mumbai
Training Space for  600 Poor Girls in Mumbai
Training Space for  600 Poor Girls in Mumbai
Training Space for  600 Poor Girls in Mumbai
Training Space for  600 Poor Girls in Mumbai
Training Space for  600 Poor Girls in Mumbai
Girl Leaders in bastis distributing grocery items
Girl Leaders in bastis distributing grocery items

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 If there are instances of positive cases or community transmission, they will be immediately withdrawn.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

Vacha's Interventions with girls during COVID 19
Vacha's Interventions with girls during COVID 19
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Dear friends,

Thank your for your support.

Along with countless special days, festivals and religious holidays  in India, some new Western special days are now being celebrated in Indian cities and districts , Valentine Day is one such special day. Vacha works with youth from deprived communities where old conservative norms still prevail. Not just dating but even friendship with a person  of the opposite sex is frowned upon. The elders would not allow permission for any celebration but the young people do manage to get together. Secretly some youths often become involved with the other sex and refer to them as boys friends and girlfriends. Others are also attracted to ideas of love and romance. Vacha organized workshops to discuss  the concepts of love and romance in local cultural traditions. Can romance lovingly support ideas of gender equality? What do the popular love songs suggest? What price a girl would have to pay if found involved with a boy?  A discussion was essential and we had to be careful and not delegitimize sweet feelings they develop after arrival of puberty.

Romance often progresses in to becoming sexually active, a phenomenon just not allowed. Contraceptives are freely available. Abortion is legal and, in public hospitals, it is free. But Sex Education is banned in schools. Our programme participants get ideas of sex from porn on cell phones, dirty drawings in public toilets, ads for contraceptives and abortion clinics and watching married couples’ lovemaking in their small crowded hutments. The sessions on Romance were very well received and youth asked many questions related to sex. We generally put these issues in our Health and Gender workshops as legally Sex Education is not allowed and there is a dire need for youth to understand the issues in context of various sexually transmitted diseases including HIV and AIDS.

Giving flowers and  love messages and gifts are fine and cheerful. However, in deprived communities Romance had also to be discussed in the background of their own life in communities as they have largely migrated to areas in Mumbai and nearby in search of livelihood. They bring with them orthodox traditions and mindsets and their children have to cope with new concepts in a new reality.

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Dear friends,

Once again thanks for supporting out programmes with much needed donations. We request you continue the same although the money will reach us later than before due to some bureaucratic issues.

Our past students Durga and Sneha have completed undergraduate studies and from their first salaries they donated a sum of Rs 10,000/- (USD 145.00 approx.) to Vacha. We are delighted by their appreciation of Vacha’s programme of social education from age 10. These are the girls who had to face the community wrath in their attempts to make their basti (‘slum’) safe for girls and women. It was the photograph they took of boys hanging out at an unofficial bike park space near community toilets for women and passing lewd remarks to girls on way to relieve themselves. Very few homes have managed some sort of private toilet in a basti. Finally the bike park was also removed from that space. One positive support they had was from their father who stood by them. This does not usually happen. Parents can be quite conservative coming as they do from some of the most socioeconomically backward areas in the country.

Durga and Sneha are lucky as they had due documents to prove their occupancy. As demolitions of the basti started their family got a 300 sq. ft. apartment in a proper building of bricks and cement concrete. The space is, of course, too small but it is better than where they had lived. Plus it has a toilet inside and bathroom so they are able to live with dignity.

One of our brightest girls Sabah  has also completed college and is employed by Shadhika, one of our supporting foundations, itself. Sabah had also started with Vacha’s programme for girls’ empowerment from age ten. Sabah’s leadership traits were encouraged by Vacha and she gained from our leadership training. She had even gone to represent Vacha to Delhi in a major programme chaperoned by a senior Vacha staff member.

We wish all the three girls, now young women, great success in life.

 

Sonal Shukla

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A rally for better community toilets
A rally for better community toilets

Dear friends,

As you know August 15 is the Indian Independence Day. Our project participants celebrate it very enthusiastically. They publish their own news letter, now in 14 communities and have lots of cultural activities. Sometimes, if open space is not available on all days they celebrate on a Sunday before the Independence Day. Events on major days give youth from deprived communities opportunities to express themselves through writing, posters, songs and street theatre.

There was an additional celebration this year that we are all very excited about. We have established a Vacha library in a former village in Thane district where poor residents and migrant labour from most backward districts in India live. The response is amazing. Within a month 150 kids have become members and more have lined up to enrol. It is the first time that they get to read something besides their text books that they get free. Many are beginning to get interested in reading newspapers. This year there were competitions and reading outs in and around the Independence Day. We felt very good that children in this very poor areas have welcomes a library at a time when many libraries and bookshops are closing down in the world. We hope to start another in an area where all homes are made from tin sheets. The programme is coordinated from our central office.

Thanks for your kind support. Donations from many of you made it possible for us to get a small place, at the devastating Mumbai prices, from where we coordinate this and other activities.

With best regards,

Dealing with influencers
Dealing with influencers
Reading aloud at the library
Reading aloud at the library
Sharing with the community
Sharing with the community
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Press Conference 1
Press Conference 1

Dear friends,

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.

Thanks again and best wishes,

Press Conference 2
Press Conference 2
Girls at the new training space
Girls at the new training space
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Organization Information

Vacha Charitable Trust

Location: Mumbai, Maharashtra - India
Website:
Project Leader:
medhavinee namjoshi
Mumbai, Maharashtra India
$28,124 raised of $35,000 goal
 
34 donations
$6,876 to go
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