The Urban Resource Centres of Saath work as information, knowledge and resource hubs for the slum dwellers. They provide linkages for documentation and certification, government schemes and services, livelihoods and financial inclusion. Given below is the story of Salma Hanif Kukdawala, who has benefited through the centre.
45 years old Salma is a widow, whose husband died about a year ago in an accident. She is now the soul earning member of the family taking care of her 70 year old mother in law and 3 children (2 daughters and 1 son). Without losing any hope after her husbands death, she currently works as a domestic maid and stitches clothes in home through which she earns Rs. 1,000-1,500 per month, not enough to feed the family.
She came to know about the Urban Resource Centre run by Saath through one of her neighbours and visited the centre to inquire. The URC centre helped her in getting Income Certificate, Pan Card and BPL (Below Poverty Line) Card. She was linked with the Widow Pension Scheme through which she gets a support of Rs. 700 per month and the Widow certificate she has will be renewed every year along with her income certificate.
Salma with her son at the URC Centre
With the BPL card and Widow Certificate she will also get a one time help of Rs. 20,000 and she may be able to get a new house from the government as well for which the URC is currently working. The URC additionally helped her for getting a Ration Card through which she gets 6 liters of Kerosene every month from nearby ration store and the URC got her voting card information corrected as well. She has opened her Bank Account as well and getting scholarship of Rs. 400 per annum from government for her children. She was linked with Ma Amrutam Yojana of Government through which she now has health insurance coverage.
She says, “When I first approached the centre, I never knew so many schemes and services were available from the government for the benefit of the poor. Now I’m in a better position to support my family and am looking at further options to increase my income.”
Skills to Succeed programme was started with an aim to create opportunities for training disadvantaged youth who are dropouts or due to weak economic situation lack skills to hold a job to provide for their families. Given below is the story of Vinu who underwent the training and is now currently working as a Customer Service Executive in Reliance Insurance.
19 year old Vinu comes from the Santra village of Patan, where he has completed his second year of Bachelors in Commerce. When asked about how he came to Ahmedabad, getting a bit emotional he shares, “I used to live with my parents and younger brother and our source of income was farming through which we were earning Rs. 70,000-80,000 annually. The fee for one semester of my college was Rs. 1,750 which was getting difficult to meet as our income wasn’t able to support both mine and my brother’s education. After this I decided to come to Ahmedabad in search of a job so that I can earn and pay for my own tuition fees. My decision at that time was opposed by my family, but I decided to come here anyway”.
Vinu’s older brother has lived in Ahmedabad for the past 8 years where he is currently working with Torrent Power on a contract basis as an electrical fitter. The work is available for only 8-10 days in a month from which he earns Rs. 7,000-8000 pm. Vinu’s brother was also initially against Vinu coming to Ahmedabad due to the irregularity of work but Vinu joined his brother as a helper and started assisting him in his work at the company. Talking about his early days in Ahmedabad he says, “Initially I got a little sacred as alcoholism is quite high in the area where I live, which took me by surprise.” Vinu’s brother has been divorced once and his family had to go to court many times. Due to these frequent visits to court and talking with lawyers Vinu has decided to study law after completing his graduation.
Talking about Skills to Succeed Vinu says, “Initially for the first 3 months I was working with my brother after coming to Ahmedabad but wasn’t earning enough. Pravin Sir, (a facilitator at the Odhav centre) came to my home while doing home visits in the area and explained to me about the training course. I joined the course as I was assured I’ll get a job after completion of training. Initially the training was difficult and for the first few days I felt very alone. My English was weak, my communication skills were poor and I was afraid if I would ask questions in the class everyone will laugh. But gradually after encouragement from faculty and staff I started improving and learning and now my English is much better and I can understand and also respond in English but only to a certain extent,” he adds laughing. His faculty says that for the initial 10 days Vinu just sat in the corner during the class and didn’t interact with anyone. Special attention was given to him to open up and his participation was developed. He now finds it comparatively easier to communicate with customers. Nishantbhai who coordinates the project observed that Vinu now dresses in formals, has learnt how to knot a tie and has a much neater appearance, which is good for his work.
After completion of the training, Vinu joined MyRecharge where he has been working as an independent retailer for the past one and half months providing recharge services to people through which he earns Rs. 4,000-5,000 per month. Vinu says. “The work needs a lot of networking and being interactive. As I work from home, I have to constantly market my services and talk with anyone I meet.” His supervisor is quite happy with the sales that he is making in the month. At the end of the interview surprisingly Vinu adds one more good news and says proudly, “I wanted to earn more to restart my education and for that I went to the campus interview which was recently organised by Saath itself date on 17th November 2014 and gave an interview to the Reliance Insurance Company. The interview was a new experience in which I was asked to sell a pen, which I did successfully. Now I’ve been selected and from tomorrow I’m starting a new job as a Customer Service Executive through which I will earn Rs. 6,000 pm. This will be additional to the work at MyRecharge.”
Vinu had moved on from his job at Reliance and currently is working with Saath. He joined Saath as a Youth Facilitator, guiding slum youth and conducting various activities with them and from then he moved to Saath’s Employment Exchange project where he generates linkages for jobs for the youth.
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.