Global Reach: Grantee Partners

Chehak Charitable Trust (Sahyog)


Girls are discriminated against in India at all stages of the life cycle, starting with sex-selective abortions, higher female infant mortality, higher anaemia, lower secondary school completion, and an overall lower investment of household resources for daughters than sons. The onset of puberty reduces girls’ freedom, mobility and increases their unpaid care work in the household (UNICEF 2019). According to a Centre for Catalyzing Change report (2019), at 356 million, India has the world’s highest number of 10 to 24 year olds - of which 250 million are adolescents between ages 10-19, and almost half of whom are girls (120 million). Completion of secondary school remains elusive for girls, and the opportunity for skilling, to transition from school to the workplace is extremely limited. Instead, we see that adolescent girls work as many as 120-150% more hours than boys in Indian households. . Urban slums in cities like Mumbai, typically lack proper sanitation, safe drinking water, and systematic garbage collection. There is usually a severe shortage of space inside the houses where young people live, and no public spaces dedicated to their use. They have little or no exposure to the topics of their relevance like – puberty, career guidance, mental health, legal frameworks, etc. Most of them are first generation learners while both their parents are full time daily wage earners (plumbers, electricians, carpenter, drivers, domestic help) with an average income of $70 - $130 per month per household with an average size of six members.

In India’s complex and diverse scenario, life skills have inherent attributes to elicit empowerment and active participation from children and adolescents, helping them recognize their power and potential and take positive action to promote social inclusion, harmony and promote equal opportunities for all. Research  indicates  a  positive  correlation  between  life  skills  and  increased  attendance  levels,  enhanced  classroom behaviour and improved academic achievement. Given the positive correlation between life skills and learning outcomes, the role of life skills education within school curriculum and in the community becomes very important. According to a report by Women Deliver and Girl Effect, when young people, especially adolescent girls and young women, are equipped with the knowledge to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), and when barriers to accessing health services are addressed, they are more likely to fulfil their potential, finish their education, and find economically empowering jobs.

A National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) 2014 report highlights that 32 million children were already out of school before the COVID 19 pandemic — the majority of them belonging to the socially disadvantaged sections. According to UNICEF, over 290 million children are out of school due to the COVID19 crisis and only 1 in 4 young people have access to digital learning. UNICEF's community based monitoring findings from Aug-Sept 2020 revealed that approximately three-quarters (74%) of the main wage earners in families reported that their monthly income is now lower than pre-lockdown levels. About 75% of respondents mentioned that the family has a debt burden due to pandemic, and nearly half of these stated that they had to sell their personal belongings. According to EMpower’s ‘COVID: In Her Voice’ report, girls are experiencing more violence, getting withdrawn from schools, shouldering more household responsibilities, being denied access to health services. 30% of the respondents who expressed that there has been an increase in pressure on them to get married during these past 15 months are from Mumbai. COVID-related fatalities have exacerbated the situation too: ‘After I lost my father, my family members discriminate against me and my mother. They are also superstitious, so we are excluded from festivals and cultural practices’, shared another respondent from Mumbai.


Against this backdrop, Chehak Trust (Sahyog) enables young people, their parents as well as its team and volunteers with knowledge and skills to make gender a priority through an ecosystem approach. Alongside with enabling girls and young women as before, it will also sensitise boys, young men, and parents in becoming informed enablers for gender equity.


Sahyog is an initiative of Chehak Trust that is committed to a community-based model of social change that is responsive to the expressed and felt needs of women and children from marginalised communities through the medium of education – including library programs (Sahyog Roshan), special education (Sahyog Sangharsh), life-skills (Sahyog Jhula), and vocational opportunities. It was started in 2000 by Neha Madhiwalla and Padma Deosthali. Neha, the managing trustee at Chehak Trust and project in-charge for Sahyog, comes with 20 years of experience of working on gender and development. She is supported by Sandhya Maghade, a senior trainer with 10+ years of experience through the lens of gender, inclusion, and disability along with a team of 4 trainer/facilitators with relevant experience in community development work.

Current Grant:

EMpower's third grant to Chehak Trust (Sahyog) will support 500 youth (10-24; 66% girls, 34% boys) to think critically and undertake field-action projects to promote gender equity within their communities. This will be enabled through its home-based library network that are multipurpose safe spaces as well as through internships and mentorships which will in turn, serve a two-fold purpose of also developing youth (including alumni) with relevant professional skills, thereby enabling them to actualise their potential. 


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