Vastf works to motivate and empower people, giving them the confidence and ability to work together and influence their fellow slum residents, council officials, police, school authorities and others.
Empower People to make changes
Slum-dwellers are vulnerable to the effects of disease, poverty, and despair. The land they live on doesn’t belong to them, and they live in constant fear of eviction. Alcoholism, drug problems, and domestic violence are common.
There is no concept of gender equality, and a deeply-engrained preference for males results in illegal abortion of female fetuses, infanticide, or deliberate neglect of girls. Women have no say in family matters, even those that directly affect them such as the number of children they have.
Slum inhabitants don’t own their homes, so they have no motivation to improve their surroundings. They are unwilling to take responsibility for community amenities such as water taps (if the slum has a water supply at all) so any shared facilities are often in disrepair. Corruption by politicians, the police, slumlords, and others adds to the slum dwellers’ sense of helplessness.
Vastf focuses on training community members and enabling them to achieve change. With knowledge, women gain the confidence to approach government officials, police, and headteachers to improve their environment and opportunities for education, and can even influence the attitudes of entire slum communities.
Apathy and doubt often fade away within the first few training sessions run by our staff. Women often stay within the slums during the day, and many enjoy the opportunity to learn. They may be illiterate, but once aware of their rights they quickly absorb information and eagerly pass it on to others. These women’s collectives are registered as charities and are a formidable presence when they visit government offices in groups.
Each member of a women’s group takes responsibility for a lane within her slum. Together, they hold weekly meetings to address health problems, crime, domestic violence, school dropouts, and many other problems or issues. The women also hold regular public meetings to help pass on their messages to the communities at large.
Children are also very active once they develop confidence. We educate them on child rights, the importance of education, and gender equality. They work well in groups, organizing sanitation drives, encouraging parents to send their children to school, running errands for elderly slum residents, and urging people to seek healthcare when necessary. Slum residents of all ages are more aware of important issues thanks to the children’s efforts, and the number of children’s group members is growing all the time.
It’s harder to get men involved with Vastf’s empowerment programs as they are often out at work all day. However, those who do participate make a big difference. They are able to pass on information and advice that many men would be reluctant to listen to if it came from a woman. They are gradually increasing awareness and changing attitudes towards gender equality, reproductive health, and other matters that directly affect the health and development of their slums.
All community volunteers receive continual support and training from Vastf, keeping them motivated, and their knowledge up to date.