A Home for Women & Children
Swadhar works for the development of women and children and has outlived its founder, Meenakshi Apte
 
Swadhar is the brain child of two of Maharashtra’s best-known activists -- Meenakshi Apte and Mrinal Gore. On the advice of super cop Julio Ribeiro, the two formidable women began a series of women-oriented activities at Goregaon (a Mumbai suburb) in 1980. In 1983, they set up a counselling centre that continues to operate even today.
 
After her retirement from the Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS), Meenakshi Apte moved to Pune. In 1995, she started Swadhar as a branch of the Mumbai NGO, with the help of Sulabha Joshi and Suchitra Date. Swadhar (Pune) decided to broaden its work to include children. The NGO was renamed Swadhar IDWC (Institute for Development of Women and Children) to reflect this new role. 
 
Swadhar’s vision is to help and empower women in distress and achieve healthy development of underprivileged children through education, guidance, training and counselling, to ensure a reasonable quality of life. It started by counselling women going through a bad marriage or divorce; this was later expanded to cover all family disputes involving women. It conducts awareness programmes on domestic violence, women’s rights, the need to maintain important documents, health and hygiene, etc, once every month. It has other activities as well. 
 
Girls’ Education Support Programme: Many girls from low-income families are forced to leave school and are married off at the age of 15.  Swadhar supports the education of young girls so that they are not forced to drop out of school. If they are from outside Pune, Swadhar helps them with boarding and lodging in a hostel. Around 250 students are being supported under this programme, with a large contribution from an IT company. 
 
Phulora: This project is being run in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad Corporation areas for underprivileged school dropouts and adolescent girls. They are taught vocational courses and given personality development training, through interactive activity, role-playing and essay writing. Swadhar’s effort has reduced school dropout rates and early marriages among girls. Phulora’s success has led to Swadhar getting requests from women to conduct the programme in other towns and villages. So far, Phulora has benefited 107 girls in Pune and over 1,219 in the Pimpri-Chinchwad belt.
 
Mohor is a 24-hour shelter home and educational centre for children of sex workers until they are four years old, after which they are shifted to hostels during the academic year and to Swadhar shelter during their holidays. Around 50 children are provided nutritious food and have their physical needs taken care of, but Swadhar is finding it difficult to raise resources for this effort. 
 
Ray of Hope is a programme designed for children with HIV/AIDs. Around 130 children under the age of 18 years have benefited from this endeavour. These children are provided a protein-rich diet and supplements, while discouraging them from starting ART (anti-retroviral treatment) due to its adverse side-effects. Most children under this programme are either orphans or have a single surviving parent. Children are monitored closely and are provided nutritious food in the hope that their immune system could be strengthened in order to avoid the dreadful disease. 
 
In March 2014, Meenakshi Apte passed away. However, the hard work since 1995 and the support of several corporate houses, foundations as well as grants have created an institution capable of surviving its founders. This excellent work needs all the support it can get in the form of volunteers for programmes and financial help to grow and sustain operations. Donations to Swadhar are eligible for tax exemption under Section 80G of Income-Tax Act.
 
Swadhar IDWC
C/o Nivara, 96, Navi Peth, Pune 411030 
Tel 020-244533452 

 

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A Dream You Dream Together

Umed Pariwar of Pune works for the welfare of those affected by disabilities like mental retardation and cerebral palsy

 

“The year was 1990. A group of parents like us used to go to KEM Hospital for the treatment of our children. Frustrated, helpless, we really wanted a way out for our children and for ourselves. That is when the idea of starting a cooperative centre was born. Our objective was to provide total care to children (like ours) including prevention, early intervention, training, education, re-training, research and total rehabilitation. There was no point in hoping that the government would do something,” recalls Rajendra Nahar, a founder trustee of Umed Pariwar.

 

What began with just periodic meetings of parents of differently-abled children gradually grew into an active association of parents. It then morphed into Umed Pariwar with the original group of parents as its founder trustees. Initially, it was more of a residential vocational training centre. Over the years, there has been recognition of the NGO’s efforts. Umed Pariwar was awarded ‘The Best Parents Association in India’ in 1996, by Rehabilitation Council of India. Mr Nahar proudly says, “We have rallied support on all-India basis and got ‘Mentally Challenged’ included in Income Tax Act Section 80DD for the benefit of parents of such special children.”

 

In the past 24 years, Umed Pariwar’s activities for rehabilitation of mentally challenged persons include: holding medical camps, annual drawing competition, conferences related to issues faced by these children and various other events and celebrations.

 

Umed Pariwar’s vision is to provide world-class infrastructure for total rehabilitation of mentally handicapped and cerebral palsy persons, to give them their rightful status in society and to improve their quality of life through research, training and re-training.

 

Its most ambitious project is Arvind Saurabh– literally translated, it means to lotus fragrance. It is a residential rehabilitation centre/ facility spread over 10 acres in Pune that will eventually accommodate over 100 differently-abled individuals. The land was donated by Madhuritai Chitale and family. The centre will have facilities like workshops, therapy centres, special area for recreational and sporting activities, hydrotherapy centre and amphitheatre. It will cater to the children through their lives, even after the parents are no more.

 

The total funds requirement for Arvind Saurabh is Rs9 crore of which Rs2.50 crore is for the first phase. Of this, Umed Pariwar has already completed work costing Rs2 crore.

 

Donations are being collected for the remaining Rs50 lakh to complete the balance work.

 

Its website lists the many ways in which you can contribute to this wonderful project, in cash or kind, including help set up rainwater harvesting, a laundry, donate books, games, toys, biogas plant, security systems, DG sets, windmills, inverters, etc. You can also help by campaigning for Umed Pariwar, sponsoring an event and volunteering.

 

As for the mind-set of the differently-abled individuals and their parents, Mr Nahar explains, “A dream you dream alone is only a dream, a dream you dream together is a reality. We dreamt together 22 years ago and it is slowly taking shape in the form of Umed Pariwar. As the name rightly suggests, we are a pariwar or family—caring, nurturing, supporting and giving umed or hope to people who are differently-abled. Our community comprises individuals, who have limitations in their lives but not in their dreams. Challenges that come, big and small, do not stop them from making the best of life.”

 

Donors will get tax deduction benefit under Section 80G of the Income Tax Act. You can plant a sapling in the name of a loved one as part of the Chaitraban project. Or you can spread the word!

 

UMED PARIWAR

 

"Shanti Complex", Flat No.4, 2nd Floor, 428/B,

New Mangalwar Peth, Narpatgiri Chowk, Pune - 411 011

Maharashtra

Telephone +91-20-26140456

Email: [email protected]

Web: http://umedpariwar.org/

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Two issues that make Women Feel Empowered

Akshara helps with the two main ways that empower women

 

Fear and social restraints have held back women of all ages over the centuries. These restrict their education, choice of work, mobility, political participation and expression.

 

Without education and skills, they end up living life that is incomplete and dependent.

 

Akshara is a Mumbai-based, non-profit, women’s rights organisation and resource centre that works at empowering women to achieve their true potential. It was founded by

Dr Nandita Gandhi and Dr Nandita Shah who were active in the contemporary feminist movement in the 1980s. Akshara started in 1995 as a resource centre for collecting gender-based material and data for students and activists. It moved on to designing safety programmes for young women and men. One of its strategic goals is to work with young people.

 

Akshara thinks it is essential to understand the issues and views of this large segment of 430 million Indians in the age group of 15 to 34 years because the country is at the cusp of a social transformation. Akshara asked itself: Can we give a helping hand to young women and train men to be allies in the struggle for equality?

 

Since 2008, Akshara’s “Empowering Dreams Programme” uses a three-way strategy: to locate the most deserving poor girls in slums to give them financial assistance for completing their education; to introduce them to gender rights so that they can protect themselves from violence and, lastly, provide them with livelihood skills so they can be financially independent. One of the many successful graduates of the programme, Uma, said, “The most important thing I have learnt in the last two years is survival skills. I have learnt to stand up for myself and make my own decisions. I don’t need others to decide for me.” Every year, Akshara engages with about 150 underprivileged girls in two municipal wards around the Gender Resource Centre at Elphinston Road West (Mumbai).

 

Akshara’s “Youth for Change Programme” aims to engage young men as allies in supporting gender equality and for prevention of violence against women. It works with youth who have joined the social service units of their colleges and takes them on ‘safety walks’. This gives training by experience on safety related to sexual harassment. It takes up advocacy to prevent harassment in colleges and their neighbourhoods. After attending one of Akshara’s workshops, Sagar realised the need to help his mother with housework, something he had never done before. Another trainee said, “As men, it is our duty to prevent sexual harassment. How would I feel if my sister was harassed? I would not want someone else’s sister to suffer.The safety audits helped in making my college safe.”

 

Akshara believes that it is important to campaign not just at the individual level but also at the city level, to prevent violence against women. Akshara’s “Safe City Programme” works with the Police (with which it has assisted in setting up the 103 emergency helpline for women), and with BEST (by training conductors to prevent sexual harassment by commuters). In December 2013, the chief minister of Maharashtra acknowledged Akshara’s petition containing 30,000 signatures for a comprehensive action plan for Mumbai, saying: “A copy of the comprehensive action plan should be sent to the chief secretary and each department involved should revert on which of the recommendations they can initiate action on.”

 

Akshara’s future plans are for pursuing its vision of a free, equal and just society for men and women. Akshara has been raising its funds through individual donations, donor agencies and corporate houses and donations from readers are welcome.

 

Akshara Centre

Neelambari, 5th Floor, Road No. 86, Opp Portuguese Church, Gokhale Road,

Dadar (West), Mumbai - 400028, INDIA. Tel: (022) 24316082.

Email: [email protected]

Web: http://aksharacentre.org/

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