Tag Archives: Viramgam

Saath’s Women Cooperative has filled my life with happiness – Rekhaben

Since 2011, Saath has been running Saath Women Savings and Credit Cooperative Society in rural villages of Dholka and Viramgam block of Ahmedabad for empowering rural women by providing them access to financial services and facilities.  Over 3,000 women are member of the initiative and given below is the story of one of our members Rekhaben Maheshbhai Makwana and how the Cooperative has helped her in bringing about change in her life.

Rural MFI Logo

Rekhaben lives in the Rampur village if Dholka block with her husband and father – in – law. Her husband used to work in a clothing factory and earn Rs. 2,000 per month. With this small income and due to illness of her father in law and his medical bills it was very difficult to run home for them. To support her family Rekhaben also joined her husbands factory and they were able to earn Rs. 3,000 – Rs. 4,000 per month but they were still not able to meet their daily expenses.

Madhuben our field officer is a relative of Rekhaben and through her Rekhaben came to know about Saath’s Women Savings and Credit Cooperative run in over 100 villages for Dholka and Viramgam especially for women providing them access to savings and affordable credit. Rekhaben became a member of the Cooperative and started saving Rs. 100 per month. Later on she took a loan of Rs. 40,000 from the Cooperative to buy an auto rickshaw for her husband.

New PictureRekhaben with her husband and their newly bought Auto Rickshaw

With the new auto rickshaw now her husband earns Rs. 300 – Rs. 400 per day. Rekhaben took the responsibility of the finances of the home and with the increase in the income she also increased her savings in the Cooperative to Rs. 200 per month. Due to her financial management now they have bought a refrigerator and TV for their home and also able to pay the medical bills of Rekhaben’s father in law and support him better. Rekhaben says, “I’m now seeing good days in my life and a bright future ahead and for this I’m heartily thankful to Saath.”

Child Rights for Change; Ashraf’s Story

Ashraf Chauhan is 31 years old and works as a Project Officer for Saath’s Child Rights for Change rural initiative. Ashraf was born Bhavnagar, a coastal town in Gujarat. At a young age he felt compelled to do something for his community. He witnessed that his community had to deal with various social issues and that there was a lack of proper education. He obtained a masters degree in Social Work (MSw) with a specialization in Rural Development at the university of Bhavnagar in 2002.

After his studies he started working for ‘Kutch Naw Mirman Abhiyan’, an organization that worked in the areas of Kutch that were affected by the devastating earthquake of 2001. It was during this time that he got introduced to Saath. Saath’s first rural project was relief work in the villages of Rapar and Khadir in Kutch. The programme ran from 2001 to 2004.

In 2009 Saath started up the Child Rights for Change programme funded by Save the Children and Ashraf was hired as the project officer for this programme. The Swedish Company Ikea realized that most of the cotton they purchase from India comes from cotton-farms that employ small children. They tied up with Save the Children and started a programme to eradicate child-labour. Saath runs this programme in 120 villages in Viramgam and Dholka, two districts in rural Ahmedabad.

Ashraf says that it’s really fun to work with kids. He thinks it’s very important to create awareness about child-rights, because children are the thriving force for future development of the country. They (the child-rights for change team) have achieved one significant milestone so far and one milestone in-the-making. A certificate of appreciation has been signed by 1,500 farmers in the area. The certificate states that the farmers won’t hire children to work at their farms. The second achievement is in process. It is a resolution that will be signed by the panchayat of all the participating 120 villages. It states that no child in their village will work.

Ashraf sees the change happening. You can see the effect of the programme in the numbers of children going to school. Before the programme started, all children were working at farms. Nowadays, from the 10,000 children, 6,000 are out of child-labour. The remaining 4,000 children combine working with attending school. Ashraf hopes that those kids will also find their way out of child labour.

The thing he likes most about his job is giving awareness trainers to farmers and parents. It’s very awarding to see the change happen in the parents. Convincing parents is almost the most difficult part of his job. It’s very tough to persuade them to bring their children to school. Many villagers don’t see the benefits of education. Their children will have to learn how to work anyway and they don’t learn that through school. Besides, they need the extra income. Firstly he tries to persuade them by pointing out short-term benefits. He explains to them that their children will be provided with a nutritious lunch at school every day and that they are in a save, protected environment while the parents are at work. Ashraf also tries to change their mind-set to a long-term perspective. At school children will learn important things that they won’t learn on the cotton-fields. Children that receive proper education on a regular basis will be able to find better jobs at the right age. The cycle of poverty can be broken by education. The farms will also benefit from educated employees. Better educated staff will be able to manage the farms better and bring new solutions and fresh ideas to their businesses.

Next to trainings he also likes to participate in developing new strategies with the eight partners that are involved with the Child Rights for Change Programme. Through working for Saath Ashraf has been able to profile himself as a good trainer. He has built a valuable network with the local government and NGOs. In the future he would like to continue the work he is doing now: helping more children out of child labour.

Ashraf (right) at a meeting with a child protection committee in Viramgam

An Escape to the Countryside

Eva, an amateur photographer and true Indiaphile, visited our Child-rights for Change programme in Viramgam, rural Ahmedabad. She  photo-documentated the child-rights programme and, between the clicking, interacted with the children and development activists. Read her story below. Her pictures will follow shortly after!

Escaping from my busy Dutch life, I tried and found some peace and relaxation in vibrant India. A visit to the rural area around Ahmedabad really helped putting things into perspective. It provided me with the colorful and happy feeling that I was hoping for.

Starting out in Ahmedabad and leaving the urban life filled with malls, markets and many, many people and vehicles, we slowly got into the surprisingly green fields of the Viramgam district.

At Saath’s rural office we enjoyed a freshly prepared lunch and Ashraf starts explaining the Child Rights for Change* program that we are about to visit. After this lunch, we were welcomed in a primary school class. Twenty children were sitting in a semi circle and greeted us as we walked in. We took our seats and four girls performed a dance, telling us a story of their daily activities. As soon as they were finished dancing, a well organized conversation started, informing us how the program was working out. Four of the students have been picked to look after the presence of the others. Apparently, that seems to be a very effective way of keeping children in school in stead of working in the fields. Later that day, we learnt that the drop out percentage is under 1%. The program really works.

As soon as we were trying to leave, it was very difficult to find our way through the crowd of very Eva (at the right) in Viramgamenthusiastic children. Then, one of the children tells us how he really would like to see and touch American dollars – being the symbol of all foreign currencies. I did not have dollars, but I handed him a 2 Euro coin. The coin goes from one hand into another and the children awed when hearing the equivalent of this one coin in Rupees (being approx Rs. 120). I wonder what they are thinking. Is this western money and the world it represents something they are dreaming of? Or not? I hope their dreams are about improving their lives by little steps, starting by joining classes.

The most spectacular thing – for me – were the people living in the villages. Taking their portraits, I was stunned by the pride and honesty in their eyes. I am convinced that SAATH adds extra meaning to the existence of these people and reconfirms their natural pride. These people – in turn, are passing these values to their children. Experiencing a day like this made me feel humble and hopeful for future development of rural areas in India.

* Child-rights for Change is a programme implemented by Saath and funded by Save the Children. The programme aims to create awareness about child-labour in 120 villages in the blocks of Viramgam and Dholka, rural Ahmedabad.

Support my School Telethon

NDTV organizes a special event for the Support my School Campaign. On Sunday September 18 there will be a Telethon with Sachin Tendulkar, from 9 am to 9 pm on all NDTV channels. Last Friday NDTV was shooting for this event at Moti Kishol Primary School and Asalgam Primary School in Viramgam. And Saath’s RDC team was there too! The NDTV team interviewed students and teachers of both schools that participated in the SMS campaign.

NDTV in action: Interviewing a student at Moti Kishol Primary School

Support My School is a campaign initiated by NDTV and Coca Cola India and is supported by Charities Aid Foundation India (CAF). The campaign supports schools to improve the infrastructure at their sites. The main components are:
• improve water facilities
• improve sanitation facilities
• provide rain water harvesting
• improve facilities for sports
• facilitate landscaping

Saath’s role concerned the identification of schools and implementation of the programme. To ensure its sustainability, a follow up will be conducted after 6 months of implementation. In April this year Saath started the implementation of the Support My School campaign in 4 urban schools and 5 rural schools in Ahmedabad district.

Playground at Asalgam Primary School facilitated by the SMS campaign

On September 18 there will be a NDTV team stand by for live coverage at Goblej Primary School in Ahmedabad. You’re invited to come to the event or tune in on NDTV.

For more info visit the Support my School page at the NDTV website.

Supportive regards,
Chetasi & Simea – The RDC team