MHT has been working with women and girls from urban poor communities for several years, building their leadership skills and empowering them with knowledge to access improved services and their rights and entitlements. These women and girl leaders have become agents of change in their communities, they are making their voices heard and are exercising their right to participate equally in democratic governance. We share here these inspiring stories of grassroots action and change.
“Before the toilets were constructed and sewer line was installed in my chali, girls found it extremely scary and unsafe to defecate in the open. It used to be worse during menstruation. Construction of toilets has been a great respite for all girls! During the course of MHT’s intervention, I found there were many other young girls who were trained by the organization to voice their issues, write applications to the corporation office and demand their rights. I decided to join them. Initially my mother was hesitant to allow me to go out of the house but today she takes pride in seeing how collectively we demand good housing, sanitation and electricity for our houses.” ~ Romaben Gopalbhai (16 yrs. old), Saraniyavas, Vatva, Ahmedabad
Muskan Jumman Sheikh, a class 8th pass young girl of 16 years has been working with MHT since December 2016 in Baba Lablavi Nagar. She shares, “My elder brother is very strict & doesn’t allow us (me & my sister) to study or go out for work. Inspite of so many restrictions, I have somehow managed to accomplish things which I could never dream of. I have conducted the MHT rapid survey in my area, also conducted the survey for collecting gender budgeting data. I have posted complaints & pictures on the Swachhta app, followed up with the corporation for toilet & sewer line, attended to official guests visiting my area & collected GPS coordinates of the constructed toilets. In addition, I have been regularly attending sanitation related meetings since last 6 months. I am proud to be a member of the Community Action Group (CAG) in my area. I am happy that I was able to push boundaries to improve living conditions of people in my slum! The joy is priceless & my new self that I have discovered in the process is amazing!” ~ Muskan Jumman Sheikh (16 yrs. old), Baba Lablavi Nagar, Ahmedabad
“My neighbourhood used to be covered in dirt & disease. A lot of my time used to be wasted in fetching drinking water & tending to my sick family members. In the little time that I had, I worked packing bindis from home. MHT first came to my chaali around 20 years ago. Being more educated than the other women, I was tasked with forming a group of likeminded women to lobby for improvement. Through our persevering efforts, we succeeded in bringing sewage & water lines for each household of the community. This bolstered our confidence & we further succeeded in getting legal power connections. With further training from MHT, I started conducting energy usage audits in the poor households. I now give them suggestions to maximise their savings without compromising their basic needs. Having completed audits of about 20,000 households, I have also started my own small enterprise now, buying current electrical equipment & selling it to the poor at affordable prices. So far, I have sold around 50,000 energy-saving equipment. This helped me to educate my children & give them a dignified life. I now have the confidence to work towards providing security, not only for my family, but to many others like myself.” ~ Krishnaben Yadav (52 yrs. old), Madrasi Ni Chali, Ahmedabad
“I lived in a small, overcrowded, one room house, with no windows and a tin sheet roof. We did not have a water or sewage connection. Our toilet was shared with most other residents. I kept on going, not seeing any way out of this life but always fantasized of having my own proper house with water and windows. During MHT’s work in our community, and I had emerged as a leader amongst my people. I was able to reason with my neighbours and present our case to outsiders. I learnt a lot about bureaucracy, housing rights and how to advocate for change. So, when the AMC came to my area with a proposal for in-situ development, I was ready! I jumped at the chance to have a formal house. But the others were wary, they feared eviction. I convinced about 75% of the residents about the merits of this proposal, but the remaining held out till the very end. Despite the dozen court cases against the development, I prevailed and today, all 55 families have their own proper house, with legal sewage, water, and electricity connections. My family’s dream has been realised, and I will continue to help others realise their dream homes.” ~ Geetaben, Abhuji Na Chaapra, Ahmedabad
“I come from a very poor neighbourhood. I am uneducated & always feared interacting with people outside my neighbourhood, especially with government officials. I didn’t have enough confidence in myself or even the system. With the help of MHT, I trained as a tailor as well as a midwife. I further underwent a paramedical services training to distribute & disburse medicines within the community. Over time, I also started going door to door and organising health camps. So far, I have conducted around 400 camps. Further, I found out problems faced by the community & tried to link them to the appropriate governmental schemes & activities. Through these efforts I have been able to help 12 patients get proper treatment through government hospitals. I also educate & convince the communities to lobby for good sanitation practices to avoid illness & disease. Today, I am easily able to convince members of the poor communities, and more importantly government officials of the benefits of providing decent facilities for the marginalised communities. I can calmly explain my case & get the work done. This is a big achievement for me since this will help me broaden my reach to help more people like me.” ~ Domniben, 55, Sadhguru Krupanagar, Ahmedabad
“Coming from a poor family I wasn’t unaffected by hardship. I had to give up school at the age of 13 to support my family. But when I got married & moved to Nehrunagar, I encountered even more abysmal living conditions. There were wide open drains overflowing with filthy water, many a times this water used to flow inside the houses. The poor condition of access roads prevented outside interaction & intervention. As a result, the community became home to several illegal activities. MHT trained us women to understand how the bureaucracy works & how to ask for government infrastructure. After 7 years of work we eventually succeeded in transforming our community even as I was threatened by several goons who tried to discredit me with false rumours. My efforts were recognised by the ward councillor and was appointed Female Ward Pramukh in 2012. I worked closely with several other communities like mine in Sarkhej. This led to me being elected the Ward Councillor in 2015. During my term as councillor, I leveraged around Rs. 20 million for ward development; 2,855 households have availed legal sewer connections and around 1,000 households now have access to water. I am happy that I can voice the opinions of those who otherwise would go unheard.” ~ Nafisabanu, Nehrunagar, Ahmedabad