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Dharavi Model: How To Empower The Community Towards Better Employability?

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Inhabited primarily by impoverished people, according to the census of 2011, India is home to more than 65 million slum dwellers living across the country.

A slum is a highly populated urban residential area consisting of tightly-packed old housing units in a situation of deteriorated and incomplete infrastructure. Inhabited primarily by impoverished people, according to the census of 2011, India is home to more than 65 million slum dwellers living across the country. As per the Handbook of Urban Statistics, 2019, published by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, 29.4% of India’s population represent the poorest of the urban poor living in slums. The growth of slums is highest in the five states with the highest urban populations — Maharasthra, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.

Dharavi Model

Dharavi in Mumbai city is spread across 175 hectares, housing almost a million people. About 70% of the population is Hindu and the rest Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, etc. With an economy of $1 billion per year, the district has an estimated 5000 businesses and 15,000 single-room factories. Dharavi houses a number of industries like recycling, making clay pots, embroidery, bakery, soap factory, leather tanning, papad (poppadom) making and many others.

Though most of the goods produced are sold in the Indian markets without a brand name, many of these like embroidered clothes, clay pots, etc. are exported worldwide. In addition to the traditional pottery and textile industries in Dharavi, there is an increasingly large recycling industry, processing recyclable waste from other parts of Mumbai. Around 80% of Mumbai’s garbage is recycled at the Dharavi recycling industry.

The people living in Dharavi are known to have migrated from various regions of India. The leather tanners in this area are the local Maharashtrians and from Tamil Nadu (including Tamil Muslims), the potters from Gujarat, the embroiders from north India, etc. In terms of its enterprise industry, Dharavi surprisingly utilizes its resources and space; approximately 85% of the population is locally employed.

The most dominant industry in Dharavi is the leather industry. This industry employs thousands of people living in these slums and has an approximate turnover of ₹120 million. Manufacturers from Dharavi are known to export cheap, but pure leather goods, to many European and Middle Eastern Countries.

People of Dharavi are used to seeing tourists and do not mind being observed. They understand and appreciate that the tourism enterprise benefits their community. A tourist agency, known as ‘Reality Tours’, even specializes in conducting these tours for Indian and Foreign Nationals.

Ways Of Empowerment:

  • The slum dwelling community is largely recognized as unorganized labour. They do not have any union to provide them bargaining power. Due to lack of government documents like Voter card, Aadhaar card and Ration card, the socio-economic inclusion of slum dwellers does not happen. Bank accounts also cannot be opened without these identity documents from the government. Hence, the strategy of acquirement of government documents in a systematic approach should be implemented for ensuring socio-economic and financial inclusion of the slum dwellers.
  • There is a need for exploring alternative livelihood options, especially for the women. Probable challenges like a lack of skills and market opportunities while assessing other viable livelihood options are faced by the slum dwellers. In this case, expert livelihood promotion organizations should be involved for doing need assessments, market studies/viability assessments, including assessments of the perception/mindset and aspirations of the slum dwellers towards alternative livelihood and designing the said programs accordingly.
  • Geographical mapping of corporate offices to plan the mobility of particular groups of rag-pickers would be an important strategy to make it financially viable, that is to bear the infrastructural costs like transport, etc. for collecting waste from a certain area. This would definitely yield more revenue than just collecting from one office per visit. If one giant corporate is tapped on, then attempts could be made at mobilizing other smaller firms and offices in and around that location to increase the amount of waste per visit to the area. Apart from the corporate offices, linkage can also be established with Residential Complexes, Multi-Storied apartments, Commercial Complexes including shopping malls (these are increasing fast and thus a potential source of waste collection, till the time compactor machines enter these places), parks, tourist places and other public places.
  • Both children and adult education needs to be promoted. Exploration of alternative education needs to be undertaken through open education system, closely working with ICDS and government schools, etc. There is a need to closely work with the schools and SMC on Right to Education and Quality of Education.
  • The strategy to mainstream all drop outs and enroll out of school children is a necessary strategy. Informal coaching centers are effective institutional establishments, because they prepare the children for formal schools and ensure that they do not drop out once enrolled by providing them additional support free of cost. The capacity of the education centers needs to be increased by identifying places/increasing number of teachers/increasing number of batches.
  • Other means like training programs, group activities, street plays could be explored to develop their leadership qualities and communication skills. The adolescents could be entrusted with a more active role in spreading awareness and advocate for child rights in the community. Most importantly a sense of value addition to their own community needs to be developed among the adolescent groups.
  • Awareness generation and referral services through health camps need to be practiced. However, health camps should be continued only with the support of the government and other NGOs. They should also make steady efforts towards increasing the rate of immunization in the slum communities.
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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