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Saturday, 5 August 2017

Changing Lives in Informal Settlements


Sunder Nagri in Delhi is one of the largest resettlement colonies with 1000s of displaced urban residents. When the 50 or so initial households moved to Sunder Nagri, it was desolate and wild. Cut off from government services and infrastructure, residents were forced to wake up at 3:30 am and walk 2 to 3 kilometers to collect water for their cooking and washing needs. Diseases were rampant because of the lack of proper water and sanitation facilities. Many children died from jaundice, malaria and diarrhea and sickness became a part of their lives.

It was in 2009 that MHT began to organize community meetings at Sunder Nagri, through which the residents were educated about their rights to clean water, sanitation and better quality housing, and how they can access various government schemes for water and sanitation. Many of the women members were nervous about travelling alone to distant municipal offices, unsure of how to navigate complicated transport systems and respond to the questions from government officials. In order to solve it effectively, MHT organized a series of training sessions and arranged trips to local government offices, until the women gained the confidence to lead these visits themselves. Additionally, MHT also helped them obtain ration and identification cards, making them eligible for government infrastructure and housing schemes.

Later on, MHT also worked extensively to improve the water and sanitation conditions at Sunder Nagri. Recognizing an acute need for water connections, MHT began to offer loans for underground water pump and individual hand pumps. MHT also tackled the challenge of open defecation through disbursing loans for individual toilets. As a result, residents are now healthier, more productive and confident.

It was the availability of water that changed their lives significantly. One of the community members says, “We can now shower and wash our clothes and dishes whenever we want. We finally have free time. We don’t have to lug heavy buckets anymore or wake up at 3:30 am to fetch water."

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Helping Communities Affected by Ahmedabad Rains


At 5.45 am on the 27th of July, Meenaben woke up to a phone call from a slum settlement in Vrundavan Nagar in Ahmedabad. On the other end was Radhika, one of the beneficiaries of MHT, informing her that the entire slum that includes 205 households got flooded in the heavy rain overnight.

Meenaben, one of the Vikasini members, has been working with MHT for the last 17 years. Having been identified as a strong woman leader, Meenaben helps with MHT's works in 23 slum settlements in Ahmedabad to empower women to develop their habitats and build climate resilience. Since Meenaben has been working with the people of Vrindavan Nagar for around 12 years now, she became the first person for Radhika to call during a time of adversity.


Soon after she received the call, Meenaben visited the community to check their condition. She describes the situation as much worse than previous years. Since the area sits at a lower level than the recently built highway, rainwater from surrounding areas were logged in the slum. As a result, the water had gone inside their households, ruining vegetables and other foods, and people were using buckets to scoop the water out.

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After verifying the situation, Meenaben called the Ward Councilor and the control room at Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) and requested for help. By noon, a team from AMC had come to Vrundavan Nagar. They pumped the water out and provided the families with food provisions.

Meenaben is glad that she is able to efficiently help the communities she works with. The trainings she received as a beneficiary of MHT continue to help her in making decisions that reap immediate and positive results. She stays in touch with the community to make sure their urgent needs are met.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

MHT is Granted Millennium Alliance Award 2017


Initiatives in promoting sustainable energy consumption among the poor has won MHT the Millennium Alliance Award 2017. A network of Indian institutions that aims to promote innovative ideas to overcome development challenges, Millennium Alliance organizes yearly award ceremonies to honor impactful social enterprises in the country.
MHT receiving the Millennium Alliance Award
At the Round IV Award Ceremony that was held in Delhi this week, MHT was recognized for works in building climate-resilient communities with a focus on urban slums. Many slum dwellings in India are constructed with plastic covers and cement and tin sheets which absorb heat. As a result, these houses create hot and stuffy living conditions and make the inhabitants vulnerable to climate change risks. Moreover, the absence of proper light and ventilation make the families depend significantly on electrical lighting and cooling.
In order to better their living conditions and reduce energy consumption, MHT came up with the solution to
  • educate families on nuances of energy usage such as bill calculation, appliance’s wattage consumption, changes in wiring to reduce energy wastage, and the use of renewable and energy efficient products
  • promote customized green energy technologies such as solar lighting-cooling systems, CFLs, LEDs, stoves and innovative building technologies such as Roof Ventilation and ModRoofs
  • support end-user financing with tailored loans and flexible collection, and
  • provide after sale services
The project will yield a 10% decrease in household expenditure on fuel consumption. Reduction in energy costs will allow poor households to increase their spending on food, health and education. For home-based workers in slums, the improvement in light, ventilation and insulation will also lead to a 4 hours increase in daily working hours. With the grant received from Millennium Alliance, MHT aims to reach 2500 households in Bhopal through this initiative and help climb the energy ladder and use more efficient and sustainable products and services.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Bhumika Following on the Footsteps of Her Grandmother

Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHT) aims at improving the habitat conditions of poor women in the informal sector. Since its establishment in 1994, MHT has worked with over 895 slums, reaching over 3,11,450 households. In an effort to bring up a generation of young women leaders with a passion to develop their communities, MHT involves adolescent girls from slum settlements in Ahmedabad to provide families with basic water and sanitation facilities. Bhumika, a 17-year-old, is one of the first adolescent girls to join the program. 


Bhumika was encouraged by her grandmother Jiviben to join MHT. Jiviben, who has been working with MHT for the last 18 years, helped improve the living conditions of around 150 households in her neighborhood. She says that it was her decision to be involved with the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and MHT that positively transformed her life and community. She learnt how to access government schemes for community development through MHT meetings and training sessions, and turned her slum, which had no light, water, toilets or pukka housings, into a neat area of colorful houses with tidily paved paths, individual toilets and water connections. Now at the age of 60, Jiviben is proud of the changes that she has brought in her community. She also educated her children, encouraged her daughters-in-law to study and work, and now supports her granddaughter in her involvement with MHT.
Bhumika started working with MHT before 9 months, when the program was initiated with the support of Dasra Giving Circle. She helps MHT with gathering women for meetings and conducting surveys. Since her grandmother has ensured that their community has necessary sanitation facilities, Bhumika took the initiative to study their neighboring localities where people still struggle to access basic necessities. She identified two slums where people defecated in the open and conducted surveys of 53 households. While conducting these surveys, she also educated the families about the Swachh Bharat Mission, a government campaign to keep cities clean and eliminate open defecation.
Bhumika dreams of becoming a teacher and educating her students on sanitation and hygiene practices that she has learned through MHT. A class 11 student, Bhumika is instilling hope for a better future for communities like hers in Ahmedabad. 




Thursday, 6 July 2017

Women’s Actions towards the Sustainable Development Goals: Sow One Seed and Reap a Hundredfold

15 years ago, Fakira Tank Na Chapra in Ahmedabad was merely a slum with illiterate residents. Today, however, through the proactive and strenuous works of the Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHT), the place has transformed into a formal apartment block with empowered women leaders. An Indian NGO that works for the betterment of habitat conditions of poor women living in slums, MHT began their work with Fakira Tank Na Chapra in 2002 by engaging the community through informative meetings about the slum networking project. As a part of the project, some women leaders were identified from the community who were then trained to actively interface with the government to improve their living conditions. In 12 years’ time, these leaders ensured that every family in the community received efficient water and sanitation services, electricity, paved roads, street lighting, and their own apartments. Safe and easier living conditions led to healthy and thoughtful community, where people found more time and opportunities for livelihoods and education.

Fakira Tank Na Chapra is one among 895 slum settlements from 7 Indian states that MHT has worked with thus far. MHT ensures that through its programs on Habitat Development, Climate Change Resilience and Participatory Planning and Governance, people in slum settlements have land rights and decent housing, clean water and sanitation, access to affordable energy, and empowered women leaders.



Through a focus on women led habitat development, MHT contributes significantly towards advancing United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Adopted in 2015, the 17 integrated and interconnected Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) address various development issues ranging from ending poverty and hunger to improving health, education and environment, with a strong emphasis on sustainable urbanization.

Since the implementation of the SDGs, MHT helped 562 households to receive access to potable water and 114 households to get electricity, and installed 8,790 toilets and 2,330 sewers. Additionally, MHT also trained 1,825 female construction workers so they could access better work opportunities, counselled 4185 families on effective energy consumption, shared 3,894 energy efficient and renewable energy products with beneficiaries, and directly and indirectly helped 59,549 families to gain access to formal housings.



MHT’s works help realize several of the Sustainable Development Goals. They are SDG5: Gender equality, SDG6: Clean water and sanitation, SDG7: Affordable and clean energy, SDG8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, SDG10: Reduced inequalities, SDG11: Sustainable cities and communities, SDG 13: Climate action and SDG17: Partnerships for the Goals.



Access to a sound habitat makes the lives of poor people (especially women), healthier, easier and safer, enabling them to find time and opportunities for better livelihoods. As a result, these immediate results indirectly contribute to other SDGs such as SDG1: No poverty, SDG2: Zero hunger, SDG3: Good health and well-being and SDG4: Quality education.

MHT’s programs stand as strong examples of how contributing to one of the SDGs indirectly addresses other issues at hand. By focusing on 8 SDGs, MHT is indirectly contributing to 4 more of the Sustainable Development Goals.