Bringing girls to the mainstream of society

By 28 Aug 2021

Vacha, a Mumbai-based NGO, emerged as a women’s group in 1987 – a women's library, together with a cultural centre that created and collected oral and visual resources for use by literacy-deprived women. It was established and registered as a trust in 1990.

Today, Vacha acts as a resource centre to address the need for space for discourse, resources and collective action with its outreach programmes mainly in Maharashtra and Gujarat

Vacha has been actively working towards empowerment of girls through diverse interventions for the past 31 years

The group consists of women with varied backgrounds such as social activism, community work, media, research, management, law, writing, finance and teaching. Through its programmes, Vacha aims to enhance self-esteem and self-expressions of girls and women and expose their issues.

In recent years, Vacha has started including male youth in some of its projects, as their gender participation can be important in resolving problems that girls face at home and in community.

The work
Vacha organises health and educational funfairs for girls and for mixed groups of girls and boys in bastis, municipal schools and at other sites. The organisation has produced resources such as health diaries, children's rights handbooks, posters and charts, puzzles, games as well as an album of songs of girlhood and other training materials for use in training programmes.

Girls’ resource centre
The NGO is focused on girls’ empowerment by helping them acquire soft and hard skills and training leadership and community work. The group equips girls with skills such as photography, art and craft, poster and pamphlet making, street theatre for social awareness, newsletter creation, and public speaking, which aids them in their community work.

 T-shirt painting workshop organised for bal-kishoris at Juhu 

"Vacha carries out training and workshops with adolescents to impart knowledge on health creating a positive attitude towards their body. We help girls to overcome their health issues by creating awareness of opportunities and systems, which are accessible," a volunteer from Vacha said.

With the addition of new centres in the year 2019 and 2020, the trust has reached out to 1,408 girls and 313 boys through direct interventions such as regular after-school sessions, workshops, exposure visits and events. It has also established two new girls’ resource centres in two slum rehabilitation authority sites in the western suburbs.

Health camps organised in three communities 

The programme included a general health screening, checking of blood group, levels of haemoglobin and gynaecological consultation and created an awareness about pubertal changes, social relevance of menstruation, self-expression techniques as well as goal setting, critical thinking, and the Right to Information Act.

Youth empowerment
One major area of Vacha's training is workshops for youth on gender, communal harmony and democracy. Vacha's training materials have been used by the state education departments and by many NGOs. The organisation's youth empowerment programmes ensure effective participation of youth in community life by building their capacity and increasing their social awareness.

“The objective is to develop an understanding of gender construction among young people and devise strategies to combat it. Apart from mentorship, scholarships are awarded based on the active participation in the community,” the volunteer added.

 Rally to spread awareness on education 

In 2019, the Vacha youth group witnessed 147 mentors who closely worked with the community events. A kabaddi tournament was organised to assert the need to recognise the right to open spaces for adolescent girls in the community on Human Rights Day.

Research and training
Vacha engages in research and developments on girls’ issues. The aim is to increase visibility and highlight the contribution of women and more specifically, of girls. The NGO conducts training and workshops on the themes of gender and patriarchy, girls’ health, and menstruation.

In 2020, 138 women and 95 men across organisations underwent training and through the gender-fair, participants were able to reach out to 671 women and 455 men.

Vacha is the coordinating agency of the Learning Community Project by Emerging Markets Foundation, which is a network of adolescent girls across seven Mumbai-based organisations. To foster engagements and build a social capital, girls are encouraged to participate in forums and discussions, which ensure that they gain a platform to voice out their opinions.

Vacha's resources published over the years
Vacha Resource Centre for Women and Girls has been actively working with girls through various programmes. Over the years, Vacha has produced a number of booklets, books and CDs of songs for girls.

In 2019, over 7,000 booklets published by Vacha on gender, health and menstruation were distributed among adolescents through diverse events. Over 3,380 children’s books in seven different languages – Hindi, English, Urdu, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil and Telugu are available to those who enrol themselves for the activities conducted by Vacha or exclusively for the library.

Vacha also has a large collection of books on and by women, which are now housed in the Centre at Dombivli, Navi Mumbai. In 2019, the NGO aimed at formalising the existing mobile library programme and set up a permanent library in a poor community for underprivileged children and youth. The Vacha youth group mobilised the library in the nearby communities and schools, which led to an influx of students from the nearby schools who never had an opportunity to read a book.

Booklets and books by Vacha Publication

"The newspaper reading sessions generated considerable interest in adolescents as that was the first time they had read newspapers and played interactive educational games. Many children shared that they loved reading poems, especially in Hindi" she said.

Books of different genres – storybooks, poetry, science and technology, quiz books, general knowledge, activity books, games, dictionaries, and more, along with children’s magazines and newspapers are a part of the library.

Notable publications include Bole Kishori: Expressions of Girls Living in Mumbai's Bastis (Hindi/Marathi), Rights of Adolescent Girls in India: A critical look at laws and policies (English), and Bal Kishori: Girls in Early Adolescence.

Covid-19 response initiatives
Over the last year, Vacha has successfully disseminated 13 drives of grocery and medical kits. As the country went into lockdown, over 1,500 girls aged between 11 and 18 worked daily to ensure that families across Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) did not go hungry. These girls, who are part of a drive by Vacha, have maintained the food supply chain for over 5,000 people who lost their livelihood and are entirely dependent on food distribution.

Vacha's community drive to distribute grocery and medical kits

The organisation also supported communities with more than 50,000 kgs of wheat, rice and pulses (combined), more than 50,000 kgs of potatoes, onions and sugar (combined), 13,060 sanitary napkin packets, and 30,000 strips of medicines and multi-vitamins as part of the medical kits.

The NGO has also been providing textbooks, notebooks, smartphones and data recharge to ensure students are able to attend online classes and do not drop out from school/ college.

Read more about Vacha Charitable Trust 



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