Ashpreet Sethi reports about a voluntary organisation that is dedicated to helping Mumbai’s slum women help themselves
With a beautiful smile on her face, Shanta, a junior supervisor at the Centre for the Study of Social Change’s (CSSC) Deepakwadi clinic in Bandra, proudly claims, “I have been here for 18 years, and I love to work for CSSC because I work for my own people.” CSSC has 21 Women of India Network (WIN) clinics spread across Bandra, Khar and Santa Cruz in Mumbai. Registered as a public trust in 1972, CSSC was started by intellectuals like Govindrao S Talwalkar, NV Sovani, GD Parikh, AB Shah and the late Tarkateerth Lakshmanshastri Joshi. The late
Dr Indumati Parikh, a distinguished humanist, had guided the activities of CSSC from the 1970s. The Centre is now headed by Dr Ramesh Potdar, who is the honorary general secretary and a committed medical practitioner.
WIN is CSSC’s flagship project. It covers areas like reproductive health, child health, family planning, water & sanitation, empowerment through non-formal education, skill development programmes, income generation and formation of self-help groups (SHGs). Dr Potdar says that the nature of their work allows health workers to first bring these women to the clinics, which then opens the door to other initiatives to empower them. CSSC is in touch with nearly 200,000 families through its health workers and mainly helps slumdwellers. “Our health workers are in touch with every household in the slums of Bandra, Khar and Santra Cruz. They bring women and children to the clinic for regular check-ups.
This helps make a big difference in the lives of these people,” says Dr Deepali Prabhat of CSSC. Using health as an entry-point was a helpful tool in motivating slum women to accept non-formal education and training for income generation.
Dr Potdar says, “We help people to be well-informed and not follow blindly what everybody says. It is always better to ask ‘why’. It has been an uphill task to inculcate an enquiring approach among these people and make them listen.”
CSSC has undertaken several projects. These include strategic research, customised training and capacity-building for government departments and non-governmental organisations (NGOs); skill-training for income-generation; awareness campaigns on development issues; and knowledge management and partnership between policymakers and grassroots workers. CSSC has also conducted community-based interventions for urban and rural poverty alleviation and training of trainers (TOT) in health & development.
A research project named ‘Saras’, a trial intervention for food-based micronutrient supplements, is currently under way. It will monitor the health of 6,000 women during the pre-conception and pregnancy period to ensure an increase in the birth-weight of 1,500 newborns and reduce neonatal problems and deaths. Vanitha, a junior supervisor on this project, said, “I am never tired of my work as I get to know the patients and understand their problems.”
CSSC also holds ‘Special Clinics’ for children who are below five years of age and ‘Gynaec Clinics’ for women once a month at each WIN centre.
There are plans to initiate a project called ‘Salaamat’ which involves setting up a primary healthcare hospital on the CSSC campus and transit emergency medical services with emergency ambulance access.
CSSC also plans to create a cropus for healthcare and set up a federation to help poor communities to cope with the burden of rising healthcare expenditure. This initiative will involve the local, state and central governments and a host of other government bodies.
Initial funding for CSSC was provided by ICICI Bank, Mumbai. The International Fund for Population Development, based in Lausanne (Switzerland), also provides support to WIN. CSSC is seeking to raise funds for its projects through grants and support from a group of regular donors (in cash and kind). Donations to CSSC are tax-exempt under Section 80G
Centre for the Study of Social Change (CSSC)
MN Roy Human Development Campus
Opposite Govt. Colony Building 326
Bandra (East), Mumbai 400051
Tel: 91-22-26570924/ 26570973
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