Organizing Community


 
 

Rationale

One of the major challenges we have faced to bring urban poor together is their diversity. The urban poor do not form a “natural” community having a common identity of a caste, creed, religion, language or regional belonging. Coming from different backgrounds they come together in slums bringing along the diversities of caste, religion, culture, and regions. Even if they come together for a common purpose, they fall apart very easily in various circumstances like communal riots, pressure of religious or political groups etc in the absence of any value based binding structure. So to create their identity as urban marginalized community is the necessary first step to move towards empowering them. If they understand the importance of their identity as urban marginalized community, their identity will become the key to the organization and shall bind them together. They will value this identity and they will come to a common platform raising their voice against violation of their just rights. We believe that if the marginalized are organized and they act united against injustice caused to them, they will certainly become the change agents of their own lives.

It is in this context, Sanchetana aims at strengthening collective actions at the community level so that slum dwellers are able to stand together against exploitation and discrimination and become participants in their own development. Sangharsh and Ekta Sangathan (an organization of women leaders) is one of the most significant initiatives to bring women from diverse backgrounds of our working areas together to a common platform. Their unity becomes their strength with their identity as the members of the Sangathan.

 

Context of Sangharsh ane Ekta Sangathan

While working in the urban slums we came in contact with many poor women with strong leadership qualities despite all the hardships in their lives. They were always ready to help people around them in solving their problems mainly regarding health or basic amenities. We identified such women as a result of our rapport with the community.

These women were named as Community Development Volunteers (CDVs). Basic training was imparted to these women by Sanchetana mainly regarding various health problems of Children and Women. Moreover, importance was given to the fact that health is their basic human right and they are entitled to have an access to basic health services from government health institutions. They started making people around them aware of this and accompanied them to visit government clinics to ensure that they get quality health care. Encouraged by the response of the CDVs information was given to them about the structure of local governance, i.e. structure of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), its different departments where they can approach regarding problems of Water, Sanitation, ration cards etc.

To give their work strength the next step was to bring these women under a common platform. After much deliberations and reflection among the staff, management team and experts in participation with the CDVs an organization named “Sangharsh ane Ekta (From struggle to Unity)” was formed on 8th March 2008, International Women’s Day. This gave the strength of organized unity to their struggle hence aptly named.

 

At Present

At present around 350 active CDVs are members of this organization. These women are organized under the community based organizations of women at their area level. These groups form Sangharsh ane Ekta Sangathan. Regular orientation meetings and trainings are organized for these local groups. Information regarding different socio-economic rights is given to them. The new members of Sangharsh ane Ekta Sangathan form RH (Reproductive Health) groups, in which intensive training of Reproductive health issues is given. Efforts are made to facilitate them towards taking steps improving the state of socio-economic rights in their areas. Different forums are created to bring these women together in the forms of observance of different days like International Women’s Day, World Health Day, Human Rights Day etc, celebration of religious festivals, outings, exposures, workshops etc. Efforts are made to involve the members in all the programs of Sanchetana.

 We have a number of cases in which the members of Sangharsh ane Ekta Sangathan have brought substantial changes to improve the state of their communities. The organization of women proves that women have the power to become sustainable change agents instead of being merely a target group who need to be empowered. We have also published a booklet- Mahila shakti: Samaj parivartan ni prerak describing tales of those women of Sangharsh ane Ekta Sangathan who have stood against the injustice done to them… 

 
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