Introduction: Shanna recently graduated from the University of Oxford with a Masters degree in Contemporary India. She interned with Saath for three months. She spent six weeks working with Youth Force and six weeks on a paper for an upcoming programme.
These last few months with Saath absolutely flew by. They were enjoyable, enriching and educational. The organisation does such meaningful work across Gujarat, which I saw first-hand and its impact stretches across into Rajasthan as well. I really admire the ethos behind Saath and congratulate them on their 25th year!
I was fortunate enough to work for the Youth Force programme for several weeks and this was a wonderful experience. I realised how many young lives Saath changes every day. For a few weeks of my internship, I was involved in documenting the work and impact of Youth Force through a film and this meant travelling to all the centres to capture the essence of the programme. I met dozens of young people who shared inspiring stories and experiences, and who unequivocally attributed their successes to Youth Force and the coordinators of the programme. I am especially thankful to Mr Paresh Sakariya, who made my time with Youth Force so worthwhile.
I also thoroughly enjoyed being involved with the Women’s Development Centre, a very meaningful project in Juhapura that provides a new lease of life to hundreds of vulnerable women. It was the programme of Saath that intrigued me the most and Saath’s interest in marginalised women is admirable. Saath’s programme offers a space and platform to women who would otherwise never have the opportunity to invest in themselves.
My experience at Saath went too quickly! I am especially thankful to Saath’s executive director, Keren Nazareth, who was a mentor and friend to me. She motivates the whole organisation so well and it was a pleasure to learn from her considerable experience. The RDC cell, Kunal, Irbaaz and Jenny – and Vama – were also a wealth of knowledge and are a really friendly bunch! I’m sad to be leaving Saath, but I hope to collaborate with Saath in the future and made some great friends here. Thank you!
Shaikh Nilofarbanu Muhammad Hanif (13 years old, studying in 7th standard) lives in Juhapura area of Ahmedabad. She lives with her mother who is the sole bread earner of her house. Her mother earns her livelihood by doing household work for which she gets a mere 500 rupees / month. After her father’s death in 2008 the financial condition of her family worsened and her mother was forced to put her two elder sister’s (age 17 years and 15 years) in orphanage. But then also poor financial condition didn’t deter Nilofarbanu to pursue her studies.
During that time, for the development of under privileged women SAATH started a Women Development Center (WDC) in Juhapura area so, when she read the pamphlet of WDC she visited the center and showed her interest in English speaking course. Later on she was enrolled for the course. Initially for few days she came to class but then she disappeared and never again came to the center. To know the actual reason behind her absence center coordinator visited her house. “When I visited her house and asked Nilofar about reason behind her absence from the class she told me that she really wants to learn English but her mother only earns 500 rupees a month so she could not afford the programme fee (500 rupees)of English speaking course. “ says Zaheeda Shaikh, Center Coordinator, WDC.
Women in WDC Computer Course with their teachers Shahin Shaikh(In the front) and Menaz Saha(In the Back). Menaz first joined WDC as a student and later seeing her enthusiasm she was hired as a teacher.
After listening to her story and looking at her enthusiasm and willingness to learn English, center coordinator decided to give her a special consideration and eventually her course fee was exempted. Now Nilofar comes regularly to the center. When Zaheeda asked about her aspirations in life she told her that she just want to complete her studies first.
Established in August 2012, based out of Juhapura, WDC is a community based women empowerment and livelihood center ‘Falah-e-Niswa’ as the women themselves have named it, aims at linking vulnerable women to various ‘sources-of-income’ which at the end of the day uplifts their power and dignity. Currently providing trainings in English speaking, Computer Courses and Beauty Parlour Courses. The vision of programme is to provide the information to women on issues like Domestic Violence, Educational and Health issues etc. and try to guide them to overcome those. Centre will also create linkages with other programmes of Saath like Micro Finance, CFS, Urban Resource Centre etc. This will holistically support the women approaching the centre.
A total of 97 women have been trained till date in the courses of English Speaking, Computer Course and Beauty Parlour.
“This kind of centres should open for not just women from minority group only but also for the underprivileged women of all the sections of society so as to empower them and give them a voice” says Zahida Shaikh, Coordinator, WDC