In the “Janata Vasahat” slum of Pune, as in many parts of India, girls from the lowest levels of society face countless obstacles to gaining an education. Financial straits force children out of school and into labour at an early age, or in best case their families cannot afford the necessary classes and educational materials. Lacking an education means the girls is without prospects. Parents, uneducated themselves, then feel their daughters as a financial burden, meaning that they are married prematurely, often without choice, becoming virtual slaves to their circumstances. Janata Vasahat is an impoverished slum community located on the slopes of Parvati,a prominent hill in Pune crowed with an ancient temple. It is an extensive, sprawling community of shanties, inhabited mostly by migrants from drought – prone rural areas of Maharashtra and Karnataka states.
Conversely, desperation of many residents means that there are anti –social elements in Janata Vasahat,-gang fighting, gambling, production/selling of black-market liquor, domestic violence, early marriage, child labour etc. Alcoholism and the domestic abuse that usually accompanies it -is rampant.
Adults in the community are largely illiterate or with minimal education. Most men in the community work in unskilled jobs or as laborers, while women work mostly as domestic servants in homes nearby. Most young children study in the local Marathi language at government schools within walking distance of Janata Vasahat. Beyond elementary school, colleges and higher education institutions are particularly abundant in Pune, and completing grade school is all that is necessary for our girls to have access to these.
Considering the above situation ASHA started working with adolescent girls in Janata Vasahat on preventive level since 1997.
In the initial stages, the following topics were the basis of interaction –
- Legal Literacy
- Women and Health
- Child care and Health
- Mental Health
- Alcoholism and Drugs
- AIDS Awareness
- Banking Procedures
- Processing Ration Cards
- Income Generation options with training
ASHA is providing counseling, education and tutoring, vocational training, legal assistance and general advocacy for girls to improve the prospects and truly alter their destinies. ASHA has worked tirelessly to change the plight of young women and girls in Pune slums.