This group helps homeless women start life afresh with dignity
Two years ago when she came from Varanasi, along with her ailing husband and three children, Nusrat had no place to stay in Delhi. Her family lived on the roadside near Nizamuddin station for weeks before they got to know about a shelter home at Sarai Kale Khan.
“It was scary to live on the streets, especially with girls. I didn’t know anyone here. Each day was a struggle. But the shelter helped me start a new life,” said Nusrat.
Today, Nusrat is helping other homeless women start a new life. She is part of a group, Collective of Homeless Women (CHW), which helps homeless women lead a life with dignity. “Women are vulnerable on the streets. We find women living under flyovers, near railway stations and bus terminals, on streets, etc, and try to bring them to come to shelter homes,” said Nusrat.
Started six months ago by Society for Promotion of Youth and Masses (SPYM), an NGO which manages several shelter homes in the city, the CHW reaches out to homeless women on the streets, brings them to shelter homes and imparts skill-based training so that they can earn their livelihood.
Rajesh Kumar, national executive director of SPYM, says that the idea is to form a network of homeless women so that they can help each other and other homeless women. “We started with 10 women who have been living in shelter homes. These women go out and approach women living on streets. They form a bond with them and bring them to shelter homes,” said Kumar.
“Our primary focus is to develop leadership in these women and make them aware of their rights. The skill training will help them become financially independent and eventually move out of the shelter homes,” he added.
Rani, 21, who has lived all her life in a shelter home at Nizamuddin, is one of the 10 members of the group, and has rescued many women in the past six months. She brought 35-year-old Ruby and her children to the women’s shelter home at Nizamuddin last month from Barakhamba Road. “It was not easy to convince her to come with me. People don’t trust you, as they fear that they might get into some trouble. We have to first win their trust,” said Rani.
Now, Ruby is being trained in making sanitary napkins. Like Ruby, there are over 400 women and girls who have been brought to various shelter homes. “At present, we have 50 women undergoing training in housekeeping, parlour work, making sanitary pads, etc at our two centres,” said Kumar.
Another member of the group, 35-year-old Radha, says the biggest challenge is to get these women to the shelter. “It is difficult to convince them to come with us. We often find women who are drug addicts. We have to spend a lot of time, sometimes days, to get them to our centre. We help them get identity cards like voter ID, Aadhaar, etc made so that they can get the benefit of various government schemes,” says Radha, who lives at Kalkaji shelter home.
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