The community based organisations and their engagement
1) NAVCHETNA TRUST: it is a women’s registered organisation encompassing various Mahila Mandals located in the slums and poor localities in Surat. It is an umbrella organisation consisting of various slum Mahila Mandals.
Mahila Mandals (MM) [mahila = women, mandal/s = Association/s]
A Mahila Mandal is a membership organisation, made of all the women of a slum who volunteers to be part of it. These voluntary members are the ordinary members of the Mahila Mandal who together elect the members of the Executive Committee.
Composition of Mahila Mandals:
Any lady from a particular slum may join that mahila mandal (slum women’s association). To create the feeling of belongingness and accountability towards the group a nominal amount of Rs 15/- is collected from the women as the annual membership fee.
The Executive Committee The mahila mandal is run by an executive committee made up of eleven members. Of these, six members i.e. the President, Vice-President, two secretaries and two treasurers are elected by all the members of the MM; while five members are chosen by the various neighbourhoods of the slum so that each location is duly represented in the eleven member committee. The election for the selection of executive committee is held every three years. There are now 24 Mahila Mandals.
The purpose of emergence of a Mahila Mandals
The women in the slums bear brunt of their gender as well economic situation. Poverty in the city makes communities very vulnerable but more so women, children and the aging and sick. Lack of infrastructure facilities such as decent house, toilet and bathroom make women all the more vulnerable.
Unemployment is high in the slums and it leads to families in debt trap and many other vices especially men who have not resilience to bad company and vices.
Many women in the slums are expected to carry on the household chores, earn for the family, bring up children and take care of the sick. Long experience of the organisation has taught us that women are in many ways pillars of social, economic life in the slum. They are the agent of change in society if their energy and potentials are well cultivated.
The emergence of MM is outcome of this faith in women. One of the major objectives of Navsarjan was to promote community-based women’s organisations and capacitate them through various trainings to take up the community development as well as take up issues pertaining Rights and Entitlements of the marginalised especially women and children of these slums. Promoting and practicing leadership and advocacy skills have been part of the capacity building agenda of the organisation and CBOs.
The MMs in the various slums are effective and are responsive to the needs of individual as well community. NAVSARJAN has helped them to federate under an umbrella community based organisation call ‘NAVCHETNA TRUST and take up number of programmes to benefit the women.
The active 26 MMs in 37 slums are instrumental in taking up social, economic, educational and political issues to some extent and try to resolve them. The Mahila Mandals with the help of NAVSARJAN carries out various activities like Balwadis (kindergartens), tuition classes, tailoring classes, money saving groups, campaign for food security (right to food), School Dropouts and working children’s program, monitoring of school management committees and Vigilance committees. These activities are supervised by the members of Mandal’s Executive Committee.