India: Mahalir Sakthi

sewing circle 940
women in class 940
women in slums

Mahalir Sakthi means ‘Women Power’ in English.

Mahalir Sakthi  started in 2005 and registered as an NGO in India in 2007, with the goal to empower children and women of the most disadvantaged communities in the slums of Madurai, Tamil Nadu to escape from poverty. Mahalir Sakthi aims to achieve this goal by:

  • Providing educational encouragement, guidance, support and motivation to school children on the importance of education and assist them to excel in studies
  • Provide  skills training at vocational institutes for the unemployed youth and women  as a means to promote self-employment

indigo foundation has partnered with Mahalir Sakthi since 2012 to support programs, including:

  1. educational Summer Camps for Dalit children
  2. youth group meetings for Dalit children
  3. a tailoring centre and funds for a trainer and machine accessories to establish a typing school
  4. support for a Domestic Workers Union to push for fair wages and conditions for Dalit women

The word ‘Dalit’, in Sanskrit, means “oppressed” or “downtrodden”. ‘Dalits’ are the name of a group of people who are born into the bottom rung of India’s caste system. Tradition assigns Dalits to all dirty laborious work in society, including gutter cleaning, manual scavengers, toilet cleaners, and garbage removalists. Because of these traditional social structures in India, Dalits are at risk of discrimination, dehumanization, degradation, and violence every day.  Dalit men often spend a major portion of their earning on alcohol and become bonded to money lenders, leaving the women as the main bread winners and the responsibility of taking care of their families rests upon them.

Dalit children are the major drop outs from their schools. Besides poverty they lack motivation and support from their parents, and are discriminated against by members of the community due to their dalit status. This results in children becoming child labours and inheriting the same demeaning tasks their parents performed. They are forced to continue to remain bonded to money lenders to pay back the loans raised by their families.

1.2 million Dalits live In Tamil Nadu and in Madurai there are 208 slums.

background

More to come …

achievements

  • Mahalir Sakthi runs tuition centres (12 and counting) to provide additional coaching for school going children from primary to higher secondary level. Each centre supports 30-35 students and a total of nearly 420 children from age groups between 5 – 16 years old benefit from these centres. The tuition centres run after school hours from 5:30 – 8:30pm and the appointed teachers are educated Dalit women, residents in the slums, who have been previously unemployed.
  • Coordinating and running summer camps for slum children which are designed to develop extra-curricular activities (i.e. public speaking, essay writing, story telling, poetry writing,  painting and cultural activities like street theatre, dancing, acting, singing,  etc), and as well as impart training on leadership and spoken-English. The summer camps are highly subscribed and children show a lot of enthusiasm to go over to these camps as they are provided with opportunities to learn new skills, hone their talents, and participate in a range of competitions and bag prizes.
  • Children attending the summer camps and the homework centres have excelled with good ranks, awards and recognitions in their schools. And 99% of them have passed their annual exams and have moved on to next grades.
  • Young people as well as widows and deserted women have shown interest to benefit from the tailoring and computer education courses and have managed  to  secure jobs privately.
  • Mahalir Sakthi has helped dozens of slum residents to apply and gain assistance from a number of Indian Government schemes and benefits designed for the aged, widowed and disadvantaged.
  • Mahalir Sakthi has gained an excellent rapport with the community due to its work and is looked upon as the first resource for any advice or assistance.

Project coordinator: John Bolger

Board representative: Deb Raphael