By Natasha Garg
As a part of my college SPJIMR’s DOCC program, I got the opportunity to work with Saath and was lucky enough to get a first-hand experience of how the smallest of initiatives can have a deep impact on people. It showed me how all it takes is one person wanting to make the lives of others better and how the ripple effect works and in turn improves the lives of a few hundred people. Having interned with various NGOs throughout my life which mainly revolve around children and their education- this was the first time I would directly be involved with an NGO which works with not just children but also adults. I adore working with children and frankly, I was a little disappointed that I was not allocated a project where I got an opportunity to work with them.
I plainly recall being apprehensive when I strolled into the doors of Saath-which by the way, was hard to discover in light of the fact that Google Maps took me elsewhere and I was marginally embarrassed to be late on the first day itself. My orientation was led by Shikha and Kunal from the Research and Documentation & Communication (RDC) Cell and they ran us through what Saath is all about and how it has collectively helped hundreds and hundreds of people while keeping their main objective of creating inclusive societies intact. After that, we went to Saath’s Urmila Home Managers programme where I learnt the first lesson of my stay with Saath- the tools that I am learning in my MBA course are something that the women working there are already applying. For example, marketing strategy’s lesson 101 states that it is crucial to know your audience in order to succeed, which is exactly what Saath is doing. It has identified what the clients want and trains the women to be better home managers. Along with that, the most astounding thing for me was the kit that the women who are trained there are provided with- it includes everything, from a small thing like a nail cutter to apron to personal items like slippers and new sarees and lunch boxes for them to carry their lunch in. My first day being on Women’s Day I was told that a special programme was being held for all the women which was organised at DBS Camp on the outskirts of the city. This was the first insight I got into the kind of relationships that Saath focuses on building and the change it envisions in today’s women. There was a drawing competition where the women were supposed to interpret the term “Women Rights” and answer the question ‘I am beautiful because…’. The sole purpose of this competition was to incite thoughts by drawing upon their inner strength and it was a wonderful experience to see how unique each girl and each woman’s thoughts were. Over the next few days I visited the centres of Saath all over Ahmedabad including the Livelihood Centres in Odhav and Ghodasar and the Urban Resource Centre in Behrampur as well as the Urban Cooperative to understand the intricacies of the work that Saath does in the urban slums of Ahmedabad for marginalized children, women, youth and for holistic development of the community. 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.
The main assignment for my internship was to come up with a business plan for the latest venture of Saath- manufacture of 100% bio-degradable sanitary napkins in the wake of Muruganantham of Tamil Nadu, the ‘padman’ of India and his sole intention of providing low cost sanitary napkins to the women who cannot afford to buy from commercial giants like Stayfree, Whisper, etc. Coming up with a business plan required understanding the target audience and the reason for them not adopting hygienic menstrual practices- whether it was lack of accessibility or sheer disinterest due to the presence of better alternatives. This required deep primary and secondary research and along the way I familiarized myself with facts about sanitary napkins which I would have never been exposed to otherwise. The assignment helped me put all that I had learnt about financial accounting in the first year of my course to practical use and helped me understand how intricately interdependent everything was with each other.
I would personally like to thank my mentor Shyam Sir under whose guidance I was able to utilize the opportunities to learn and grow and who showed me the path which I should follow to find the answers to the million questions that I had. I would lastly like to thank the whole Saath team for warmly welcoming me in their midst and for patiently answering the innumerable questions that I had during my field visits. It was certainly an experience that I will cherish in the days to come.