There is only so much you can do when you read about oppression and the inequality against the tribal community in the newspapers. Many times when the conditions of the tribal community are slated down, it goes unseen and gets shoved back in the list of things that need our attention. It takes bold blood and grit to actually witness it in the locus and do something about it. There are a few heroes without capes who put in their all to help them. One such person is Dr Sonal Rochani, a social entrepreneur who founded Shakti Foundation.
Working to help out the underprivileged and reaching out to them, read on to know the inside story.
Unearthing the social reality
A PhD in English and with a background in mass media for eight strong years, Dr Sonal set out to do her part for the society. Working as a journalist in leading newspapers like Gujarat Mitra, Divyabhaskar and as a crime reporter at Samna helped her get in touch with the harsh realities of the underprivileged section of the society. The distressed condition of the women and the high level of corruption involved in the usage of the central government funds dedicated to the tribal community inspired her to reach out to the underprivileged section of the society. Having worked in radio, news channel and corporate sectors she truly understood their oppressed situation and hence, she decided to start her NGO ‘Shakti Foundation‘ in August 2011.
Where all the action lies- Shakti Foundation
Sonal started Shakti Foundation with the help of eleven of her friends from various professions. The NGO focuses on tribal women and their children who have no source of permanent livelihood. The NGO has joined hands with the government, communities and other key partners to help these tribal communities understand the importance of health, hygiene, education, skill development and livelihood.
For a year, Sonal and her friends along with some government staff roamed in entire South Gujarat. The entourage tried to understand the actual condition of the tribal women. To kickstart the activities of the NGO, they started carrying out awareness campaigns while identifying the underprivileged women and started working for their skill development. Work started in the interiors of the Tapi and Surat district, where Kotwadiya and Hadpati women were identified as the most primitive of the tribal community.
Illiteracy, unemployment, poverty, indebtedness, malnutrition, early marriages, alcoholism, gender discrimination were recognised as major problems amongst the others. To unmangle the kids out of the vicious circle, 44 ashram schools for kids were set up where proper education is provided. Along with the school, they have also introduced numerous programs which educates them about hygiene, nutrition, skill development and way to earn a livelihood.
No mountain too big
Nothing great comes easy, and this was the same for the NGO. The main challenge was to sensitize the people themselves about their oppressed situation. It was also difficult to gain their trust for involving them in the programmes designed for them. When the women were trained to work in the diamond and the textile industry, it became difficult for them to go out as they were already overburdened with household work. Even after setting up incense stick making machines in the homes, socio-cultural practices and other factors proved as a hindrance. It also became difficult when these women themselves were afraid of standing up for themselves.
Nevertheless, the NGO keeps working towards a better future for these tribal communities.
Planning for a better tomorrow
They are currently providing sanitary napkins to around 5000 young girls where these pads are made by a self-help group of women. Currently, the group can only provide with 30,000 to 35,000 pads a month whereas these girls require up to one lakh pads a month. They plan to support one more group of women so more women can get employment and more tribal girls can get pads.
The NGO is in need of 8 lakh rupees to start one more such unit. They need funds as loans for the women which they aim to repay within the same year as the units start functioning successfully. If you are looking for a chance to give back to society, then here’s a golden opportunity. You can make the lives of these women better by just giving a small amount of money on loan. If you wish to make your contribution, contact the NGO on +91 97277 57570. You can also visit their website and Facebook page.