Tag Archives: slums

Youth for Youth: About Dreams and Aspirations

Last February a group of six students from Sweden visited our organization. They all shared their experiences with us. Read below the story of two students: Alice and Simon.

We are a group of six students from Global College in Sweden. In February we made a field study in Ahmedabad for two weeks. Our aim was to find out what youth’s dreams and aspirations were and what possibilities they had to achieve them. During our field study we interviewed a couple of girls from SAATH’s education program UMEED. The youths were very friendly and we made easy contact with the interpreters as well.

The interviews gave us an understanding of youths’ situation in the slums. We learnt how the society, the family and the norms affluence the youths’ dreams and their opportunities to achieve their dreams. We also got an insight of our own culture and could see similarities to the youths in Sweden.

SAATH were an exceptional organization to work with, they were very accommodating and flexible. They not only arranged youths we could interview and interpreters, but also could adjust the schedule to our specifications and made it possible for us to make home visits to the youths. Our contact person, Chetasi, was also very helpful. She could give us more information about Ahmedabad, the situation in the slums and about youth’s situation in society. She could also guide us in our work by suggesting questions we should ask and other perspectives we should look at.

Alice Harlin and Simon Rudholm



Work Wednesdays: Sanjeedaben’s story

For today’s Daily Dose of Saath we share Sanjeedaben’s life-story with you. Sanjeedaben has been working for Saath for 11 years now. She’s an inspiring and empowering woman from the Sankalitnagar community. She has been working with several programmes, but mainly with the Balghars (non formal pre-schools) in Juhapura.

Sanjidaben was born in1962 in Pune into a family of five brothers and three sisters whom are all in Pune. Sanjidaben moved to Ahmedabad in 1980 when she got married into a family whom where living in slum called Sankalitnagar, Juhapura.

In 2001, Sanjidaben lost her husband through a heart-attack, at a very young age she became a widow. She was living with her in-laws extended family, however the shock of her husbands death lead Sanjidaben into a sever depression, where she would not leave her house. She lost all hopes and felt she would be better off dead.

This meant that her daughter was running the household; she had to go to work-study and do all the housework, as Sanjidaben was not in a state to do anything.

After the communal riots in 2002, SAATH had started a project, informing the local residents of Sankalitnagar, Juhapura about access to support and encouragement to live on. When her daughter came across the project, she forced her mum to attend and join them. At first she was very reluctant but eventually when her daughter accompanied her and Sanjidaben saw what the people of SAATH where doing gave her hope. Initially, Sanjidaben had a condition ‘that she will only work from home’, which will allow her to stay in her own comfort zone because she still did not have the confidence to go out and speak to the people in the community. She, herself was inspired by Sukinaben who used to work for SAATH at the time and who also encouraged her to get out in the community.

Each day she saw a brighter light and slowly Sanjidaben started leaving the house, initially it was only in her neighbourhood and then went further as her confidence level increased.

Initially when Sanjidaben joined the Balghars, she did not get a great amount of response from the community. People where afraid of sending their children to school and thought it was a waste of time. Families in Sankalitnagar had never seen a school being run from the area, so it was very hard for people to trust organisations.

Sanjidaben received some basic training on how to speak to community members in order to build their trust. Soon after the training, Sanjidaben went around the houses in Sankalitnagar, explaining to the parents the benefit it would have if they where to send their children to Balghars. Sanjidaben managed to recruit enough children to start two classes, each one with 15 to 20 children in them whom came from families, which Sanjidaben and her family knew of.

Despite the rumours and names being called, Sanjidaben continued recruiting more and more children. She enjoyed what she was doing and the positive impact it was having on the children.

Her day use to begin with teaching the children prayers, followed by songs in which they would use body parts, colours, objects etc to help children recognise and understand the basics before entering 1st standard education.

Sanjidaben started to training to new Balghars teachers who would show an interest; however only to those women, who thinks and see her philosophy, which is the interest of the young children and how they would benefit from the additional education the children would receive.

Sanjidaben started hosting parents meeting where parents would be informed on the progress their child is making. Providing information on nutritional, cleanliness, immunisation and difficulties children are experiencing at home. Sanjidaben has been able to remove barriers between Hindu and Muslims by cross working with two communities and involving both religions in decision making that affect the area where they live.

Once the girls reached 18, they were housebound; fathers did not feel comfortable in letting their daughters leave the house, in case they got up to no good. For this Sanjidaben went from house to house, explaining to parents the benefit it would have if they let their daughter leave the house, make friends, awareness of things around them and so on.

With couple of other women within SAATH, Sanjidaben started a focus group for people to meet and discuss family issues, how to obtain a ration card, election card, and registering birth/death. The facilities in Sankalitnagar got better from what it was before Sanjidaben joined SAATH.

Sanjidaben tells me that her maternal family and her in-law are so proud of her because she has been able to do a lot to help many people around her turn their lives around for better.

During Sanjidaben’s time with SAATH, she has participated in various training around handling young children between the ages of 3 and 5, counselling services to those affected in the riot during 2002, counselling services for physical and mental abused women including field work.

With all these skills, Sanjidaben has built enough confidence that she has been taking two coaches full of people on a day trip around the Gujarat Sate. For this she would use one of her day-leaves. Many people in the community has been able to build confidence because of this trip. Many people have not even been able to go outside Ahmedabad. She has managed to show people different locations around Gujarat and places, which they have only dreamt of.

Sanjidaben managed to arrange the whole wedding for her daughter five years ago, from getting the wedding invitation to venue arrangements and food. She had built enough confidence to be able to handle all the technical issues, which only a husband would do. Over the last year, Sanjidaben has also managed to do things alone, which previously she would not do.

For Sanjidaben, the guidance she has received from SAATH has helped her recover from her depression, build confidence, put her own children through good education, and learn the things, which she may not, had done so if it was not for the organisation. Sanjidaben comes in everyday because the work she does is rewarding and the salary is not important to her.

Sanjidaben is a voice amongst the people in Sankalitnagar, she will encourage the people in the community to live a better lifestyle and bring their children up in a good environment.

Nutan Patel wrote this story up.

Work Wednesdays: Devuben’s story

On Work Wednesdays we bring you news about our programmes and stories about our people working in the community. For today’s daily dose of Saath this is the story of Devuben Parmar. Devuben is the co-ordinator of the Urban Resource Center in Vasna.

Devuben was born in a traditional family and brought up in a small village called Sapar, near Rajkot. At the age of 21 in 1985 she got married to her husband.
Life after marriage was a bit difficult because in Sapar they faced lot of draught and therefore the farming land was not doing well. Very shortly the business went under because his customers where not paying for the jobs he was doing and was left with a debt.
In 1990 Devuben and her husband decided to move to Ahmedabad in order to clear the debt and for a better life so decided to move to Pravinnager Guptanar, a slum area in Vasna.

Devuben’s first job was making khakras (a Gujarati snack). She stayed in this job for 2 to 3 year. Her monthly salary was low and to make ends meet she even sold her gold to pay off the original debt. Even then they were left with debt because of the interest, which incurred. She took up extra work in order to clear the debt, and joined a sewing class. To pay the fees she did small jobs around the school. As soon as she learnt to sew, she started to receive small jobs from the colony that helped her cover the cost of her household expenses.

She came in contact with Saath when she was pregnant with her first child. Saath was providing nutritional goods for the expectant mother to help nourish the unborn child.
In 1992 Devuben joined Saath as a teacher on the Balghars Programme. This is a programme, which offers young children up to the age of six in the slum areas basic education, health, and nutritional services. When Devuben joined the programme, she lacked enormous confidence; frightened of people around her because she did not feel as if she fitted in well and thought that she cannot speak on their level. However, her desire was to be able to offer a better future for her family one day. Devuben, her husband and her six-month-old daughter lived in rented accommodation in Vasna.
In the beginning it was very difficult to convince the local residents, however she managed to recruit 32 children in the class. Here she worked for almost four years, from which she received good feedback from the local community and people from the area started to see the benefit the education system was having on the young children. The children started receiving educational support and from this, they learnt discipline, cleanliness, numeric, and alphabets.

Rajendra Joshi, founder of Saath saw the impact that Devuben was making on the local community and suggested she got herself involved in the slum Networking Project for Guptanagar where she would gather local the community and talk to them about the upcoming facility they can have i.e. access to clean water, drainage facility, legal electricity etc. In this role, Devuben received a lot of verbal abuse from the local residents where they started to talk about her, and call her all sorts of names, this then resulted in arguments between her and her husband. These arguments went on for a while until he realized what a good job she did for the community.

After all the hard work of daily pursuing the community, Devuben managed to get some people on board and small payments was taken which was in the Seva Trust. Several months went by and no work had been started so people started to put pressure of Devuben and once again rumours started, this time, they were saying that she has taken our money and no work will be done in this area. The information was relayed back to Rajendra Joshi who then put pressure on AMC for the work to start. Soon after, the preparation started and the local community started seeing people from the local government attending the area to measure up and take relevant structural information.

Local women started approaching Devuben for work and useful knowledge, i.e. learn to read and write Guajarati, sewing, computer classes etc. Many women in her area did not leave their homes but having seen what Devuben has achieved, encouraged other women to follow her example. Devuben started a women’s organisation whereby they would come and talk about issues the women are facing. This was being operated with only 13 women from different communities and religion and now they have around 165 women. There were issues ranging from husbands who were addicted to alcohol and gambling to obtaining ration cards and registering birth etc. They would go back to their colony and talk about the support they are receiving to other woman and that is how the awareness was raised.

Devuben does not feel as if she is working, to her, this is her family and life; it is what she enjoys the most. She finds it rewarding and therefore will go out of her comfort zone to support people around her. Devuben’s vision is to be able to offer many slum areas in Ahmedabad the support she has been able to offer over the last 18-years. Increase people’s awareness and responsibility on handling money. She would like to obtain information about the ownership of Guptannagar’s land so residents can purchase where their homes are currently standing. This would help the residents in Vasna to upgrade their homes and have a better long-term future for their families.

Nutan Patel wrote up this story.


When we visited India our friend asked us if we wanted to visit Saath. We already heard about the good work and projects of Saath so off course we wanted to visit the office.

First we went to a school (non-formal education) in a slum area in Vasna. This school is a place where child-labourers get a chance to get prepared for regular education. Our friend, who’s a researcher at Saath’s RDC, had the idea to make origami flowers….an Indian Lotus and a Dutch Tulip flower! After some practice we were ready to learn the kids how to make it! When we arrived all the kids sat nicely together listening to what the teacher was telling. When we showed them the origami paper everybody got excited. Demian turned out to be the best Tulip origami person. All the boys gathered around him. All the girls went to Simea and Jennecke to make lotusflowers. All the kids did a great job, some already knew how to fold flowers! The boys knew how to make airplanes…so many airplanes flew through the classroom 🙂

It was great fun, and we laughed a lot! At the end everybody received a nice sticker. We left some more so when somebody has a good result he or she receives a sticker! Saath really created the opportunity for these kids to go to school and it was fantastic to be a little part of that!

We continued our journey to the URC office of Saath in Vasna where we met the coordinator and three field-officers.They explained us about the projects and showed us drawings of a new project for affordable housing.

It was a great experience an we truly believe that Saath really makes a difference for a lot of people!

Thanks a lot for your hospitality!

Warm regards,

Demian and Jennecke

Youth Stories: Bismilla

Bismilla, at age 19, was brought up in a traditional household in Sankalit Nagar, H Ward, consisting of her father whom is a driver, a housewife mother, a married sister, and a brother who is a carpenter. Before joining with Saath, she was unable to leave her household by herself. She was shy, and was unable to communicate with other people. She was able to study up to her 10th standard, but unable to advance any further in education because she was unable to leave the house. Fortunately, about one year ago she came in contact with another young girl, whom was a part of the Youth Group, coming door-to-door telling people about the program, and asked Bismilla to join.  She had to decline because she knew her parents would disapprove. After the encounter however, the youth coordinator came and sat down with Bismilla’s parents, and told them of the advantage the Youth Program can bring, including developing personal skills and interacting with a network of local youth that experience the same everyday difficulties as do you. Hesitantly, they allowed her to go to one meeting.

She was very interested at the first meeting, and was able to convince her parents to allow her to attend more, and become actively involved in its programs including the 3 month long Cleanliness Campaign. She shared that one day the youth group had a picnic at Science City, and this became the first time she left her home, unescorted by her parents.

Later she joined the UMEED program, in order to train in customer relations and get a job. She would have never been allowed to work before, but after the youth coordinator sat down with her parents, they were willing to let this happen. Currently she works with India Infoline, earning Rs. 6000 monthly. Initially her father said no to it, because it was far away. Yet she stayed firm on her desires, with a new found confidence uncovered by the youth program, and persuaded her father to allow her. With such a good occupation, I found it hard to believe that just one year ago, she had no concept of a job, and didn’t even know what her father did for a living. It was only after her first meeting at the youth group, that her and her mother went to her father’s job, and asked questions and learned about what he actually did.

When asked about the transformation she experience as apart of the youth group, Bismilla said “before I was nothing,” and now she is a confident, self empowered young woman. Bismilla encourages other people to join the group, saying that it helps develop a better person out of you, and moreover develop a better community and society through individual growth.

This story was documented by Sagar Patel, 16 (US) who volunteered at Saath for a month. He visited the field and met with youth from the Azaad Youth  Groups.