Giving Ahmedabad’s urban poor a ray of hope

In Gujarati, the word “Saath” means “together, cooperation, a collective or support.” Saath works with slum residents, migrants, minorities, children, women, youth and vulnerable people in urban and rural areas. In the last 25 years, the organisation has expanded into Gujarat (5 districts), Rajasthan (6 districts), and Maharashtra (Mumbai) and has affected more than 4 lakh individuals.

Mother of a young boy Shyam, Alpaben is currently doing a beautician training course at Saath because as she puts it, “mere ghar mein kamane waala bas ek hi hai, aur baki ke sab khaane wale hai.” (My husband is the only earning member in my family. His income needs to support 5 of us, which is not enough.)”

A graduate in Arts, Nirmalakumari, was unable to get a job in a company or call center after completing her degree. She is doing a Tally course at Saath’s to develop a hard skill that will increase her chances of getting employed.

Then there’s Sheetal who’s father is a heart patient but cannot retire as his income is necessary to support the family’s needs. Sheetal too is doing a vocational training course at Saath; in the hope that she can soon start supporting her family, instead of her father.

Different people, similar dreams. All of them are young, around 20 years old. They either need to or wish to be able to support their families in the near future. Belonging to families where the average monthly income is around Rs. 5,000 today, there clearly wasn’t much money to send them to a private school when they were children. Their Hindi/Gujarati-medium school education is thus getting them low-level white-collar jobs, at best. So, what does their future hold?

Lucky for them, Saath looked into their crystal ball years ago, realized that their future’s a bleak one, and decided to do something about it. 2005 onwards, the organisation began employability programs (known as Umeed in Gujarat and Udaan in Rajasthan) for youngsters like Alpaben, Nirmalakumari and Sheetal. Through job training and help with placements, Saath is taking baby steps to pull vulnerable families across Gujarat out of poverty.

Training is given in courses like Business Process Outsourcing, Bedside Patient Assistance, Customer Relations and Information Technology – jobs which have a demand in the market. One lady who has already benefitted from this is Kalavati, who works at Ahmedabad’s Kankaria hospital today. It’s thanks to Saath’s nursing course that she was able to get this job. She says, “Since the seventh standard, I’ve wanted to become a nurse. After completing class 12, I was not able to do the Bedside Patient Assistance course as it was too expensive. When I learnt about Saath’s training at affordable fees, I immediately jumped at the opportunity.”

Saath ties up with corporates as well as local businesses to place these youth in formal job sectors. Some organizations that have absorbed Saath’s graduates include Eureka Forbes, HBL and the Ashirwad Hospital in Ahmedabad.

The training needs of people in the non-formal job sector is also addressed (through their Nirman programme). This includes training in carpentry, plumbing, masonry, electrical etc. The training provided is both theoretical and practical in nature and help trainees earn better incomes. Like Asif who says, “I used to earn Rs. 200 a day, now I earn Rs. 400 a day.”

Supported by the American India Foundation, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and Gujarat Urban Development Mission, these programmes have trained more than 47,000 youth and placed more than 75% of them till date.

Saath’s mission is to empower communities and individuals. Umeed, Udaan and Nirman are just one of the ways they are steering towards this goal. Their other efforts include a home-managers’ training and placement program through which they identify unemployed and poor women, train them as house help and then place them; thus helping them earn their own living. And Rweaves, through which rural artisans’ of the traditional Patola and Tangaliya arts of weaving are provided marketing support.

Then there’s Child-Friendly Spaces (CFS) centers, which focuses on child labourers. 4 hours of informal education and nutrition support are provided to children in the age group of 3-14 years. Most of the children whom we met at the Fatehpura/Juhapura center made rakhis for 6-8 hours a day. Saath aims to eventually enroll these children into schools providing formal education. Besides this center, there are 2 more in the slums of Ahmedabad and 4 on construction sites.

These CFS centers have helped steer more than 100 child labourers and children of labourers back into formal schooling systems, till date. Children like Shabnam. Kadri Shabnam Amjadali was a migrant from Bihar; she and her family were doing labour work in Ahmedabad. When her parents came in touch with the CFS center coordinator, they were a little bit hesitant. They didn’t want to send her to the center but after intense counseling and assurance by the CFS teacher that she will be provided a pick-up and drop facility, her parents agreed to send her. Shabnam was then enrolled to the centre.

In Gujarati, the word “Saath” means “together, cooperation, a collective or support.” Saath works with slum residents, migrants, minorities, children, women, youth and vulnerable people in urban and rural areas. In the last 25 years, the organisation has expanded into Gujarat (5 districts), Rajasthan ( 6 districts), and Maharashtra ( Mumbai) and has affected more than 4 lakh individuals.

1 thought on “Giving Ahmedabad’s urban poor a ray of hope

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.