Mahila Housing Sewa Trust (MHT)’s mission is to organize and empower women in poor communities to improve their habitat.
A quality habitat is a home with all basic services such as clean water, toilets, electricity, and adequate light and ventilation. It is a key financial asset that supports livelihoods, and makes the poor more resilient to heat stress, disease, and other hazards of climate change. Women understand that a strong neighborhood is essential to upgrading individual homes. They know how to work together to bring much needed services in their under-served communities. Through its grassroots programs in habitat development, climate change resilience, and participatory governance, MHT empowers women to exercise their rights and uplift living conditions for their families and neighbors.
MHT was founded in 1994 by the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), a union of poor, self employed women workers, in order to facilitate better housing and infrastructure for its members in the state of Gujarat. MHT first started working in the water and sanitation sector in 1995 with the Parivartan Slum Networking Programme (SNP), that initiated a unique partnership between slum communities, AMC, MHT, SEWA Bank * private sector to extend a package of 7 essential services in Ahmedabad slums . In 10 years, the SNP program expanded to reach 35,500 slum dwellers in Ahmedabad. Recognizing that access to electricity was also a major demand of poor women, MHT initiated a program to provide legal electric connections in slums in 2001. Our energy program has since then expanded to include promoting use of energy efficient & renewable products and building resilience capacities against climate risks. Since 2005, MHT has also played a significant role in connecting poor communities to public housing programs by by creating awareness, mobilizing them to access finance, assisting them in the application & construction processes, and training communities to manage and monitor common infrastructure and services. Ensuring land rights for the poor is also a key aspect of our housing program.
Today, MHT is working in 17 cities across 8 states in India and collaborating with partners in Bangladesh and Nepal. It is a leading advocacy organization with expertise in policy development, grassroots organizing, community development and technical know how in land tenure, construction, management and oversight of infrastructure projects.
MHT views habitat as a productive asset, integral to all aspects of a poor woman’s life. Her well-being and livelihood is closely tied to her house, and the availability of services like water, toilets, electricity, and paved roads. However, currently between 25% to 40% of city residents in India live in slums in unsanitary and hazardous living conditions, deprived of adequate shelter and these basic habitat services. We believe that the most effective way of ensuring access to services, and legal rights in slums, and poor communities is through mobilizing and empowering women in these communities to become drivers of change. Towards this, MHT adopts a three-pronged approach as illustrated below: