The Journey of a grassroot feminist change maker

Born in a conservative community of Babaji’s (priests) of Gujarat, where girls are married off at tender age and education is a far cry for them, here is Mital, the bold and enthusiastic women, about to get inducted in the Gujarat police force due to her father’s unflinching support in wake of strong resistance from relatives and within the community. Mital in her twenties is from rural areas the sleepy town of Somnath in Junagadh, thrilled with joy and satisfaction for making it to the Gujarat State police forces after years of sustained efforts. Her father retired from service, and at present works as a temple priest. Her mother is a home maker, has 2 older sisters and one brother. She studied throughout from Gujarati medium. Babaji community has strong patriarchal influence, which does not encourage girls to educate themselves. Such regressive and backward thinking leads to young girls getting married off at a tender age, even before they attain puberty. So when her father decided to educate Mital and two other sisters, he had to face stiff opposition from his relatives but they did not toe their line and chose to educate them.

MitalAfter School, she decided to become police personnel, but there was lack of guidance. She pursued Masters of Social work, besides that she even appeared for police entrance again but could not clear the physical test because of lack of preparation. She joined a government NGO in Kutch near the Indo-Pak border as a community mobilizer after masters but her work was cut short, as her family felt the remote location was unsafe for her, so she came back.

After returning, when she was searching for jobs, she faced issues like eve-teasing her locality. Her work with the NGOs had changed her outlook towards such issues a lot, otherwise earlier her reaction would have been of indifference. She felt that the youth needs to be sensitized towards such issues and they should take the initiative. This led to her joining the Youth Force started by Saath, with a vision of empowering the urban slum youth. She got the chance of planning and implementing diverse activities for youth development as a member and in the capacity of a city coordinator of Rajkot. During her work she found numerous issues of gender biases in the community, which affected her work with the youth groups and especially female members who were not allowed to participate freely. The leadership training, workshops and trips along with the experience of youth force transformed her into a feminist youth change maker.

She again started preparing for the competition and the challenge was even tougher this time on, since she was working simultaneously. She clearly planned out her daily schedule keeping in mind her strengths and grey areas. After following the tough schedule for 6 months, she was selected as armed constable by the selection committee. Mital proudly says, “There is no alternative to hard work. Success comes only to those who work hard for it. Success comes to those who relentlessly move on irrespective of challenging circumstances. Without the support of my parents, and the exposure at Saath, it would not have been possible.” Mital looking back in the past says, “If my father had not taken a stand for us, then even I would have been married off at tender age without any life of my own and led a life like any other girl in our community. Mital plans to prepare for the civil service exams, which is her next milestone.

A walk down the memory lane, My Internship with Saath, Shmbhavi Sharma

Experiences in one’s life are the tiny steps that pave the way to what we become. Therefore, I have always believed that it is very important to have the right experiences in one’s life which enables us to grow as an individual and add on to our knowledge base. Interning with SAATH indeed has been a very fruitful and great learning experience.


I still remember my first day at SAATH.I was a little apprehensive of what was in store for me in the coming weeks. Having decided to do my summer internship with SAATH, I ventured into the terrains of an unknown city. On my first day at SAATH, I was oriented about the various projects run by the organisation in the various cities of Gujarat.I was introduced to the project coordinators and briefed about various projects in detail. The one thing that really struck me on my first day was the warmth exuded by everyone in the office. In the days that followed, I visited the centers of various projects run by Saath i.e. Saath Savings and Credit Cooperative, Balghars, Youth group resource centre, Child Friendly spaces in Vasna, Juhapura and Odhav. It provided me a glimpse into the kind of work Saath is doing in the urban slums of Ahmedabad for marginalized children, women, youth and for holistic community development. It was a thought provoking experience to go to the field and see the reality and hardships that people face in their everyday life marked by struggle and subversion of their rights. My main assignment was a detailed study about the Youth Force programme at Saath. I studied about some of the programmes for youth conducted by civil society organizations in India and abroad. Along with this I also interacted with the youth force team leaders, visited youth force centers and actively participated in the events conducted by the field team .I fondly remember during one such visit at Youth Force resource centre in Odhav, the Youth Force members shared their aspirations and how Youth Force programme has made a significant difference in their lives by giving them a platform to showcase their talent and strengthen their innate qualities along with providing them career guidance and motivation. The enthusiasm with which the group members participated in the activities and involved me gave an insight into the pivotal role that the programme is playing for shaping the youth’s future and personality. I also got a chance to work on the half yearly donor report and was pleased to be entrusted with such a responsibility as an intern. Throughout my internship one thing which I liked the most was the office atmosphere and the warmth shown by everyone. The smiling faces in office, the excited overtones, helpful voices and lunchtime round table discussions are all a memorable part of the wonderful time spent at Saath.

Another great experience was participating in the cultural event for Nivea’s CSR event which was held in collaboration with Saath. On a short notice we had to put up an educational skit and it was incredible to have been able to pull this in such a short duration of time.Directing and acting in the play was really exciting for me. Saath along with giving me an opportunity to hone my documentation skills also gave me a chance to showcase my extra-curricular talent. It was through the constant support and guidance of Saath team that I was able to successfully prepare an elaborate report on further improvement of Youth Force programme. This could have not been possible without the support, encouragement and guidance of Saath team.

I would especially like to thank Paromita Ma’am for searching new avenues and creating opportunities for my personal growth and learning. It was wonderful to have her as a mentor as she was always available for guidance and motivated me throughout the internship. Without her encouragement and valuable advice completion of the report and my personal learning would have been incomplete. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Irbaaz and Kunal Sir for my smooth induction as an intern and helping me as an intern to feel comfortable and get acquainted with working of Saath. Their guidance and support throughout the internship is much appreciated. Vama Ma’am thank you for believing in me and entrusting me with the responsibility of putting up a skit in such short duration of time. Also, I am thankful to Abhishek and Paresh sir for giving me an insight and helping me to understand Youth Force programme in detail and getting adequate field exposure for the same. Thank you Niraj sir for giving me a direction to initiate my learning process and mould my learning outcome. I was deeply touched by everyone’s simplicity and dedication and my interaction with everyone has been wonderful.

shambhavi 1Shambhavi, along with other interns  at Saath office

It was a beautiful journey of five weeks and I am glad that I chose Saath for my block field work internship. Saath as an organisation is doing incredible work for the marginalized section of the society with its holistic approach of intervention and empowerment. I would be more than happy to be of any help in the future and the time spent at Saath would always be cherished and remembered.

Shambhavi Sharma

MNC petrol pump hires 18 women trainees of Women@Work

women@work-1Under Women@work, vulnerbale women are trained for non-traditional trades such as electrician, mobile repairing and petrol pump service for acquiring a meaningful employment or start their own micro-enterprise. The programme was started in June 2015, has trained 72 women and 92 are undergoing training right now.

Recently Women@work, successfully placed 18 women trainees at a Petrol Pump in Ahmedabad. The welcome gesture of this MNC petrol giant, has grabbed the attention of the passers-by at the petrol pump. One of them is Neema Ben (Name has been changed), who has been hired, despite the fact that her husband is suffering from HIV AIDs. Her husband lost his job and she is the sole bread earner now taking care of the entire family. She will be getting a salary of Rs. 8,500/- which will help her sustain her family needs, especially when the family is going through tough times. The program has been successful to bring change in the mind-set of some, as we see in this case the recruiters have thought beyond conventional norms and stereotypes for promoting work place equity and the right to work irrespective of gender and health issues.


Neema Ben defies societal baises to work for sustaining her family!

Khodiyar nagar is a small slum pocket with 4,000 households in Behrampura, Ahmedabad. Mostly people there are involved in labour work and auto driving for a living. Neema ben, 25 years old also lives in this area with her husband and mother-in-law. She has two daughters and one son. Her elder daughter is studying in 1st standard and younger daughter is studying in Aanganwadi. Her son is 2 years old. Neema ben and her husband Kailash bhai have both studied till 8th standard. Kailash bhai was working in one of the shop with a salary of Rs. 6,000 per month. Two years back Kailash bhai was diagnosed of AIDS, as a result he couldn’t continue his work. The family is in financial crunch as Kailash Bhai’s medical expenses are increasing day by day. All the responsibilities suddenly came upon Neema ben Ben’s shoulders, so she started searching for work. Neema ben’s mother-in-law also started labour work at this ripe age. By the stroke of luck, in November 2015, Neema ben met the Mobilization team of Women@Work Programme of Saath focused on training women in non-traditional trades. Neema ben keenly acquired the information about the program, and she saw a ray of hope for her family’s future, thus joined the 15 days training. She got hired at Petrol Pump along with 18 other women near her area after her training. She has a 9 to 6 job with a salary of Rs. 8,500 per month. Neema ben says with a sense of satisfaction, “Women@work has not only shown me a way for solving all the problems of my family but also it has empowered me to stand on my own feet”. (Names of the beneficiaries have been changed)

My Connection with Saath – Shashank Rakesh

Shashank Rakesh interned with Saath for 7 months and given below is his experience with Saath in his own words. IMG-20160212-WA0027

‘If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.’

This anonymous quote perfectly describes my journey at Saath from the beginning till the end. It started on May 2nd, 2015 with an orientation program led by Irbaaz and Kunal from the RDC i.e. the Research and Documentation Cell.

The orientation program started with a brief interaction with all the program co-ordinators. The nuances of each of the projects was nicely explained. After the interactions, visits to different program centres were made to have a better clarity. The two-day orientation program concluded with me getting into Saath Mahila Saving and Credit Co-operative Society, the rural micro-credit wing of Saath which is headed by Mr.Shyam Prakash Singh. It focuses on financial inclusion and empowerment of women in rural areas by providing them an opportunity to save a minimal amount every month. It also extends credit to these women members in joint liability as per their need.

It was one of the most exciting decision from the perspective of my position on the learning curve. I learnt a great deal out of it. The field visits to Viramgam, Dholka and Mandal helped me in understanding the problems at the grassroots. It also gave an insight into the operations of the organization which it undertakes in these areas. I met different people during these visits. Listening to their life stories, their problems, their aspirations for themselves and their family’s future would often give me an unexplainable feeling.

IMG-20160212-WA0021Shashank documenting case stories for Saath Mahila Cooperative

I made a great set of friends who became more like a family to me. I loved every moment of the office. When you get a lovely morning coffee from Shobhnaben as soon as you reach the office, you forget all the problems of your life. The motherly nature of Madhuben would often make me forget that I was a bit far from home. The interactions with Parulben used to be very interesting as she would tell me many things from her previous work and life experiences. She’s always ready to learn something which she didn’t know. The ever smiling Jayaben would fill me with positivity as she believed that things will happen no matter what but it becomes easy if you take everything with a smile. I learnt a great deal of professionalism by seeing Bellaben. She is a disciplinarian in and out.

I developed a special bonding with some people of Saath family. Shyambhai, Irbaazbhai, Kunalbhai, Vama and Shabya became very close. They shared every happiness with me. They were the people who I turned to for everything which I wanted to know. The growth from being a student to a small step towards being a professional was guided by these people. They acted as mentors. I got the insights of the rural India with my endless discussions with Shyambhai. He would tell me of the various problems of the financial sector in the villages and the possible solutions for it. He would talk about banking regulations, the changing business environment, the emerging challenges to the organization and the ways to make it growing.

Kunalbhai and Irbaazbhaifrom the Research and Documentation Cell can be simply be termed as ‘Tom and Jerry’ of Saath. They will tease each other, make fun of each other but can’t live without each other. Kunalbhai loves to talk. Give him a topic and he can talk endlessly. He has a very good command over Gujarati, Hindi and English. There are times when he would bring a unique term in Gujarati during a discussion to make his point which would make everyone to think. This art makes him one of the most loved guys in the organization. Irbaazbhai is a cracker in a nutshell. He looks calm and composed almost all the time but reality is the other way round. He loves to read and because of this passion, I could connect to him more often. He has an exceptional talent of writing. He can be seen running in the office all the time because of the work. But then, it is because of the dedication he shows in the work which is reflected everywhere and that garners respect.

Vama is the in-charge of the fund raising department of Saath. She is the woman with a plan all the time. She can be called as the Google of the organization as she knows everything and everyone in the field. Her innovative ideas of raising funds have been appreciated by everyone.

Shabya is one of the closest Bihari friends ever. She remains straight forward all the time. I have seen her ina chilled out mood most of the times. She is a passionate photographer at the same time.

I would like to thank each member of the Saath family to have me there. I would have missed a few names but they will always remain in my heart. There are a lot of things which I have learned over time but then it’s the relation with the people which keeps you going every day. It was a really great experience working with the entire team. I was really blessed to have each one of them.

Saath has always worked for the inclusive development of people. It stretched its arms and included me in their journey towards the making of a better world. May the organization achieve newer heights and spread its love to newer horizons.

I would like to sum it up in a quote, ‘life is a journey, with problems to solve, lessons to learn, but most of all, experiences to enjoy.’


A big thank you to Rajeshbhai for providing one time meal to the children of our class in Vasna.


Saath would like to thank Rajesh Basetha who every Thursday provides a nutrition snack to the children of our Child Friendly Space class. Saath is running a class at the Swaminarayan Park construction site in Vasna for the children of the workers of the site, right in front of Rajeshbhai’s home. He has his own grocery store right next to our class. He moved in the area about 2 months ago and used to see the children coming to class next door regularly every day. He inquired about the class, and coming to know that it’s for the children of labourers he felt that he has his own duty towards society and decided to provide snacks to the children once a week. A humble person when asked about it Rajeshbhai says, “When I came to know I first ask the teacher that whether I can give the food to children or not as I thought some parent may say no. Saath is doing a very commendable job and I hope that the developers of the construction site also realise their duty and provide such classes and also support to the children of the labourers working for them. I regularly send my daughter as well to distribute food at the class so that she also learns about social responsibility”.

Talking about children with a big smile on his face Rajeshbhai adds, “Every Thursday morning the children come to ask me that what I’m going to give them today. Now they also give their own loving demands adding please give this today kaka which I do oblige”.

A big Thank You from Saath to Rajeshbhai for his support!!!