Partnership for Social Change: An Impact Study

Building a legacy since 1983, Sanchetana has laid its groundwork for community services in urban slum settlements by creating useful awareness amongst the people about health-related topics and helping them in uplifting the standards of living in their areas. Sanchetana has brought together a community of people and driven them to become self-dependent by inculcating leadership and management skills. For sowing the seed of self-confidence in every individual, Sanchetana organizes activities and encourages everyone to participate to overcome their social fears and sparks an interest to express their creativity. This is the article based on the report prepared by an intern as a part of her internship.

Methodology of the team

Modern and captivating methods like organizing seminars, puppet shows, short dramas, movie clips, etc. are used to effectively spread awareness amongst the people. For minor girls between the age group of 12 to 18 years, parents are talked to and with their consent, the girls are included to participate. Many of such parents after some time are happy to see their daughters undergoing such incredible changes at personal, interpersonal as well as social levels.

Overall, Sanchetana has always sought out innovative steps to promote development and adopted fun methods to engross the participants in all the activities, resulting in maximum absorption of benefitting qualities by them. Over the past years, Sanchetana has grown not only in numbers but also in its areas of operation and spectrum of activities, empowering people to upgrade their standard of life.

Community Health vis-à-vis Women Empowerment

Since its inception, Sanchetana has worked on community health through health service, health awareness, and hygiene-related issues. This has empowered women. As an urban poor community with whom we work belonged to diverse religions and castes, communal harmony is always an inseparable component of all our programs and activities. We see the communities with whom we have worked constantly for many years have attained a state of communal harmony.

The institution played a pivotal role in the betterment of the lives of thousands of women of Behrampura, Narol, and the Danilimda area. Instilling awareness related to basic issues like anemia, menstruation, cancer, etc. are provided by the team to girls undergoing puberty through Sexual and Reproductive Health Clubs. Influenced by the development of the girls in the community, many parents are encouraged to enroll their own daughters in the clubs for their holistic development to nourish their self-confidence, in turn teaching them to become self-dependent. Initiatives like Sangharsh and Ekta Sangathan are also important among women expanding the reach of Sanchetana. This platform has helped women to raise their voices against patriarchy by making them strong enough to be heard and acted upon. This is done in every interactive session with these women. This has spawned an increase in respect and consideration for women and their viewpoints amongst the male-dominated society.

Poverty, like economic injustice, is interwoven in the socio-economic fabric of slums, contributing to community health issues. Multiple factors like lack of education and proper medical facilities create a breeding ground for health-related myths, causing and spreading infectious diseases and malnutrition leading to an imbalance in the health of the area. Low income begets constraints in buying capacity and restricts these people from availing of basic amenities like sanitation. Regarding women as nothing but housewives and disregarding their opinions and needs is also a prime factor involved in this cycle of poverty. Sanchetana tries to educate and encourages the people in such areas to themselves work for improving their situation by addressing all the factors aptly.

Skill Development vis-à-vis Women Empowerment

Multiple vocational training sessions were conducted as an integral part of the Skill development program to teach relevant skills to the girls and women, as to make sustain in the outside world as an independent entity. Women who never even stepped out of the four walls were introduced to the concept of ‘self-dependency as a part of the program, putting them on a trajectory to generate their own sources of income to support their families.

Thus, as a part of this program, two vocational training centers are established in different slums of the Danilimda and Behrampura areas. It included training like:

· Henna class

· Stitching class

· Computer class

· Beauty parlour

Many girls of these areas approached vocational centers to learn various skills. Many secured jobs after learning such skills. These skills have now carved a way for them to earn money on their own, while at home. The results of the training provided are not only limited to their own communities but also go beyond their areas.

Holistic Development

The holistic development of every individual paves its way when they attend these meetings in different programs of Sanchetana and expand their social network by learning how to interact effectively with others. They observe these changes at the deepest levels of their personalities after joining Sanchetana. Relevant technical, communicational, and managerial skills are instilled in them as a part of their training. The leadership trait is also taken up by some of them and is further practiced while organizing activities and events. As all of this training is always done together, the ability to learn to work in a group and overcome their fears by coming out of their comfort zones was developed along with their contemporaries under the guidance of the Sanchetana team. Organization of awareness campaigns relating to menstrual hygiene, diet to be followed, and many other topics allied to the health care domain helped in the propagation of truthful knowledge amongst the community, curbing out the superstitions and myths which had been persisting in their minds due to incomplete knowledge. Decreasing child marriage rates show the effect of the knowledge the community has collectively absorbed. All pregnant women give birth to their children in proper and clean hospitals now and avail of the rights under government schemes. Improvement of financial conditions in multiple households can be considered concurrent with the employment of the women which has led to the acceptance of their work by their family members. Adolescent girls are evolving with a positive and encouraging environment around them which has imbibed in them the need to own their individual identities. Most of them work with the organization as they feel mentally relaxed.

Participation of everyone may it be a woman or a man or a young child, Sanchetana’s sessions have brought an overall change. As these sessions are interactive, girls and women with diverse cultures have come in contact and communal harmony is developed at many places. In many big areas, participants visited their entire area for the first time as a part of different activities. They became more aware of the problems of people in their own areas. Once they understood the importance of good health, he/she is automatically driven to instigate a healthy change in his/her own and even their family’s lives. And, after observing the benefits of such changes first-hand they tend to spread this knowledge among the people in their contact making them ‘Community Development Volunteers’ (CDV) who later emerge as leaders of their respective areas.

Challenges faced

Along with all positive experiences, members of the organization are not always welcomed at initial levels. Building trust within unknown communities is the most daunting challenge the teams face on-field. All of them have faced few challenges initially like:

· People were not ready to learn from them

· They were not ready to permit women of their family to step out

· Unaware of the importance of education believed they knew everything and didn’t want to listen to them

· Members were not allowed to participate in the community in some areas

· New entrant women often faced issues talking to men which were later resolved

· Communities were unaware of their basic rights and government affairs

The teams have always strived hard, taking up unconventional methods to face and overcome these challenges to expand their field of work, encompassing as many communities as they can to help as many people as possible.

Author: Ms. Srishti Anil Chaudhari, Volunteer, Sanchetana CHRC

Sanchetana now and then

Sanchetana Community Health and Research Centre is a grassroots level nonprofit organization working with slum communities of Ahmedabad Gujarat