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Facilitating Homeless Young Women in their Journey towards a life of Dignity

Impact

Impacts and Achievements

Urja has reached out to 354 young homeless women since its inception. Our belief in the ultimate empowerment of young women has allowed us to encourage many lives. As they arrive, most of these women are battered and broken. Urja traces their journey from cocooned individuals to confident and independent women through counselling, health care, education and a wide array of other transformation programmes

 

Our Impact since 2012

  • Literacy education to over 200 women
  • Jobs opportunities to 125 participants
  • Supported  over 250 women to develop their sense of identity and self worth
  • Mental health support to over 140 young women
  • Assisted 24 women through legal cases

Stories of change

Maya

Maya was taken away from her home to be sold in a metropolitan city at the tender age of 4 years. Had there not been a raid, her fate would have been like those of many trafficked girls. She was rescued and sent to a children’s shelter.

Maya's changed many shelters throughout her young life, but gained multiple skills and traits through training and workshops in all the shelters. Although not an easy childhood, she still had a roof over her head but once she was 18, she had outgrown the shelters’ age limit and was on the streets. It is from the streets that came Maya to Urja and through the team tried going back to her family who refused to take her in due to the stigma attached to women who have been away from home for too long. Dejected but not down Maya started afresh with her new companions and family at Urja.

With no education but with the many skills acquired over the years, Maya is a hardworking, diligent and confident young women on her way to lead an independent life with dignity.

Vaishali

Some years back, Vaishali (name changed) was a dreamy-eyed teenager pursuing a diploma in fashion design. Her ambitions came to an abrupt halt when her elder sister eloped and her parents became very anxious that history would repeat itself. Under great familial pressure, Vaishali was married off this year but she found herself very unhappy in a household which forbade and restricted her from pursuing her studies. When discussions with her husband proved useless, she turned to her own family members who replied, “You are now a bride in their household. You have nothing here.”

Though Vaishali had heard nothing that we haven’t heard before, with nowhere to go and no means for financial independence, she decided to take matters into her own hands. She packed her luggage, announced her decision to her husband and headed where her self-preservation compass pointed to. She sought sanctuary at Urja, a home for runaway and homeless girls in Dadar.

Devi

By the time she was 24, Devi had lived more than most do in an entire lifetime. Born in a Brahmin upper-class family in a small village in Uttar Pradesh, fair and beautiful, 16-year-old Devi fell in love with a young 19-year-old Hindu boy from a lower caste who visited her home for odd jobs regularly. She eloped with him and landed up in Surat.

Her family – her father was the pujari of the village – chose to take revenge from the boy's family. They had them beaten mercilessly and the boy's sister was molested. Faced with daily threats and persecution, the boy's elder brother tracked down the couple and persuaded them to come home. Devi faced the wrath of her family and was married off within weeks without being consulted to a local goon; who, on discovering her past, abandoned her. Afraid of the stigma, the parents decided to send her off to stay with her married older sister in Maharashtra. Devi had the onset of depression and the symptoms were beginning to show but no one noticed.

Her sister was expecting her second child and her sister's husband used the opportunity to draw Devi into a forced, abusive and illicit relationship. The sister tried intervening and then, worried for her own marriage, insisted her husband finds someone for Devi to marry.

The husband chose an employee of his, an orphan with a slight physical disability, and Devi was married off for the second time – again without her consent. She bore two children and, one day, Devi picked up her younger child and threw him down the balcony. Why? Devi was mentally unstable.

She had begun hiding things at home and laughing without reason when she met strangers, including men. Her husband read her behavior as that of a "wanton" woman and beat her. And then, one night, Devi vanished.

A few weeks later, Devi found herself at the URJA crisis center at Mumbai's Dadar area. It took six months for the people who run URJA to prise her story out of her. Devi was unstable, she had escaped her home, had lived on some railway platforms, been raped by several men – she wasn't sure how many – while she lived on trains, and finally rescued as she sat shivering on a railway platform by a Muslim rickshaw driver who brought her to URJA. Devi was no more than 24.

This, she tells me, is quite "run of the mill" for URJA (inner strength). The founder of URJA, Deepali Vandana's, voice breaks my reverie. I am sitting on the floor shell-shocked. Was this a true story or am I listening to some horror story? I have read stories like this sometimes in the newspapers but usually, they seemed unreal even in print. One just dismisses them – they don't sound true.

But now, Devi is living at one of URJA's apartments. I can't really pretend she's not real. It's taking me an eon to swallow her story. For it to sink into my brain. Deepali probably thinks I am slow or something. Can it be possible that someone goes through all this in a span of just eight years and before she has turned 25? Was Devi fabricating the whole thing to gain sympathy? Are Deepali and her colleague Charu exaggerating for some inexplicable reason – just to magnify the horror of it all?

But I look into their eyes and I can see they are not lying. They are just recounting what happened. And Devi certainly wasn't fabricating anything. She was in no shape to. Subsequent physical examinations showed how damaged her uterus was from overuse. All the marks on her body were evidence of what she had borne. She was grim and silent. She couldn't fully recall her children or explain all that had happened to her.

Devi came to URJA in 2012. URJA has done everything possible for her. They have time and again contacted her family. The parents say she is "dead" for them. Her sister pleads she cannot help.

URJA paid for her husband's travel to Mumbai and he met Devi but he's uncertain if she can be a mother to their children or a proper wife to him. He can't come to terms with her mental problems and would rather move on. She now works for a salary of Rs 8,000 a month at a packaging company in Mumbai.

Ameena

Ameena, was married for 17 years to a man who was abusive, absent from home and had multiple affairs. She had two children with him. After a lot of humiliation and gross violation of her dignity, she decided to leave her house. She came to Urja at this time, stayed for one year and her growth has been phenomenal ever since. She underwent counselling for her depression. Gradually, due to her interest in the beauty parlour industry, she was enrolled in a ‘on the job training’ at a salon. She built her confidence back and grew popular in some networks. She is thinking about her personal and professional growth and is now registered with the Indian School of Hairdressing run by the famous Ayub. The training, though generously subsidised by ISH, cost her 79,000 INR. Urja stepped in to share the burden of the cost to not let finances hold her back from living her dream

 

Mukta Sathe

A story of a runner who was only 12 years old when she lost her mother to a life threatening illness. She started selling garlands on the streets because of their economic conditions and alcoholic father who never worked.

Not satisfied with life, this girl decides to leave her home behind and arrive at Urja, where a new journey began for mukta. Upon arrival she felt that there is no need for hiding and found a new sense of stability. In time she started her education and earning money to become finically independent. Through her stay in URJA, her talents, her potential, her abilities came through an individual who was eager to make a mark in life. She got selected to participate in the Mumbai marathon of 21kms. She even started participating in many races and marathons. She won the 2nd prize in another marathon, Silvasa of 27kms. She has a belief that a new road lies ahead and it’s never ending and ever winding. Her decision to leave her home behind is the best choice, she reckons.