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.
After 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.
Under 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)
In the last month a mass demolition was carried out by the Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC) near Morbi Road behind Jay Jawan Jay Kishan Society due to which 65 families lost their house in the heavy monsoon season. The land belongs to RMC and the place is popularly known as Mafatiyaparu. Since last 35 years the affected families had been living there with all residential documentary evidence. Majority of the community people are daily wage earners. On 12th March 2014 community received a notice under Town Planning Act and was asked to vacate the encroached land. Two or three families just kept this notice with them while others visited the local counsellor for help. The counsellor then submitted a request letter to local elected MLA. From the counsellor the community got the message that the families who will demolish their houses voluntarily will receive dwelling unit from the RMC. However, no written commitment or legal steps had been followed. RMC had followed the due legal procedure and send last notice. Finally, in the month of August 2014 RMC did the mass demolition (30 families had voluntarily demolished their house while rest of the houses were demolished by RMC)
Saath’s Housing rights projects Rajkot team received this news through local newspaper and visited the site for fact finding. The affected community had aksed help and guidance from the team. The team drafted a request letter and submitted it to the Rajkot commissioner. At that time commissioner did not given positive response and instead of providing housing to the people he asked rent of the RMC land which they had used in last 35 years and used humilitative words for the community. Our team members tried to explain the poor condition of the community and then the commissioner suggested to apply for EWS and LIG housing scheme under Mukhya Mantri Awash Yojana (again this is not affordable to people).
Since the community had not followed the due legal process after receiving the notice, we realised that filing case in the court was not an effective strategy. Another strategy was planned to raise this issue at the nation level through National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPC). However, local political leaders took some interest and divided the community. Because of political intervention we took our step back, but kept eye on each action with the help of local leaders. Meanwhile, team did regular dialogues with the commissioner. On 16th September the commissioner gave positive response and verbally committed that the 30 families who had voluntarily demolished their houses will receive dwelling under BSUP scheme and suggested to meet Alpana Mitra (civil Engineer – RMC) for the same. Alpana Mitra has given positive response, and asked to do survey of all 65 families and that they will try to allocate housing to all the affected families. For us this is one of the major achievements that by we succeed to protect housing rights of the 65 families.
Through its Nirman project Saath has been working towards breaking the gender stereotypes regarding work. Through its Nirman project Saath has trained over 96 women as Masons. Saath has also started training women as Electricians a trade predominantly male and considered unconventional for women. Recently we have started speacial batches for training female electricians and have trained over 18 women as Electricians and given below is the story of Ashwini Parmar one of the Nirman trainee of the electrician batch in her own words.
There are seven members in my family which includes my mother, 2 sisters and 1 brother and my uncle and aunt. My father passed away 10 years ago. My mother does housework, my uncle has a private job and we get pension of my grandfather through which we are able to earn Rs. 8,000 per month. I being the eldest child in my family had to become responsible at very young age.
I was always interested in working as an electrician and used to do small repair works within my home. When I came to know about the Nirman electrician training programme I decided to join it and got full support from my family to join the course. I learned a lot during the training and thoroughly enjoyed the course. In the future I want to start a small business on my own and currently will do some small electrician’s work within my neighbourhood.
Ashwini at the Nirman Centre
Through Nirman and Saath I also got an opportunity to travel and attend a workshop in Delhi where I got to meet other women like me who like me are doing jobs that are considered unconventional for women. These women are doing incredibly good and their strength and passion has also inspired me. The workshop was also a great exposure and an amazing learning experience that I will never forget.
Currently I’ve got a job working in Divya Bhaskar. Along with it I’ve been selected as a faculty in Nirman to teach the electrician course to other women joining the training. I’m really thankful to Saath and Nirman for putting so much trust and faith in me and I will do my best to meet up their expectations.
30 years old Ms. Ranjan Solanki is a resident of Kosad area of Surat and is a member of Saath’s Youth Force initiative. She has taken micro entrepreneurship through the programme and now earns Rs. 3,500 per month.
Ranjan used to live in Ashoknagar, Katargam area of Surat, where she and her husband ran a grain shop. They were very happy in the area and their business was running good. When the Surat Municipal Corporation decided to demolish their slum area, they were promised to give new house in other area. After the demolition they were provided a house in the Kosad area which is at quite far from the city centre. Due to this Ranjan and her husband lost their business, and Ranjan was left with a lot of other issues as well due to shifting in the outskirts of the city.
The main issue faced was of livelihood. They had lost their business and did not know what to do. The financial problems also started as they were using up their savings very fast. During this time Ranjan came to know about a micro entrepreneur training organised by Youth Force and she was advised to join the training. At that time she was not sure about the joining the training but Shital the youth leader convinced her by explaining the importance of training for her future.
She spoke with her husband about the training and he said to her to join the training program. The training program lasted for 4 days and she was very happy with the knowledge she gained during the sessions. She got an idea to start a new business. Before the training she used to work in hospitals and in the houses but wans’t able to earn enough money. Now she has started her own venture and she sells vegetables and is able to earn Rs. 3,500 per month. She is now in a better position to support her family.
Talking about her experience she says, “I am thankful to Youth Force for giving me training through which I gained enough confidence of starting my own business and now I want to move ahead in life. I want to grow my business and I am planning for the future. I am very happy that I am also contributing to my family. Our life is now slowly coming back on track. Saath is doing very good work which is really helpful to people everywhere. Thank you Saath.”