A Home for Women & Children
Prof Anil Agashe 03 January 2015
Swadhar works for the development of women and children and has outlived its founder, Meenakshi Apte
 
Swadhar is the brain child of two of Maharashtra’s best-known activists -- Meenakshi Apte and Mrinal Gore. On the advice of super cop Julio Ribeiro, the two formidable women began a series of women-oriented activities at Goregaon (a Mumbai suburb) in 1980. In 1983, they set up a counselling centre that continues to operate even today.
 
After her retirement from the Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS), Meenakshi Apte moved to Pune. In 1995, she started Swadhar as a branch of the Mumbai NGO, with the help of Sulabha Joshi and Suchitra Date. Swadhar (Pune) decided to broaden its work to include children. The NGO was renamed Swadhar IDWC (Institute for Development of Women and Children) to reflect this new role. 
 
Swadhar’s vision is to help and empower women in distress and achieve healthy development of underprivileged children through education, guidance, training and counselling, to ensure a reasonable quality of life. It started by counselling women going through a bad marriage or divorce; this was later expanded to cover all family disputes involving women. It conducts awareness programmes on domestic violence, women’s rights, the need to maintain important documents, health and hygiene, etc, once every month. It has other activities as well. 
 
Girls’ Education Support Programme: Many girls from low-income families are forced to leave school and are married off at the age of 15.  Swadhar supports the education of young girls so that they are not forced to drop out of school. If they are from outside Pune, Swadhar helps them with boarding and lodging in a hostel. Around 250 students are being supported under this programme, with a large contribution from an IT company. 
 
Phulora: This project is being run in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad Corporation areas for underprivileged school dropouts and adolescent girls. They are taught vocational courses and given personality development training, through interactive activity, role-playing and essay writing. Swadhar’s effort has reduced school dropout rates and early marriages among girls. Phulora’s success has led to Swadhar getting requests from women to conduct the programme in other towns and villages. So far, Phulora has benefited 107 girls in Pune and over 1,219 in the Pimpri-Chinchwad belt.
 
Mohor is a 24-hour shelter home and educational centre for children of sex workers until they are four years old, after which they are shifted to hostels during the academic year and to Swadhar shelter during their holidays. Around 50 children are provided nutritious food and have their physical needs taken care of, but Swadhar is finding it difficult to raise resources for this effort. 
 
Ray of Hope is a programme designed for children with HIV/AIDs. Around 130 children under the age of 18 years have benefited from this endeavour. These children are provided a protein-rich diet and supplements, while discouraging them from starting ART (anti-retroviral treatment) due to its adverse side-effects. Most children under this programme are either orphans or have a single surviving parent. Children are monitored closely and are provided nutritious food in the hope that their immune system could be strengthened in order to avoid the dreadful disease. 
 
In March 2014, Meenakshi Apte passed away. However, the hard work since 1995 and the support of several corporate houses, foundations as well as grants have created an institution capable of surviving its founders. This excellent work needs all the support it can get in the form of volunteers for programmes and financial help to grow and sustain operations. Donations to Swadhar are eligible for tax exemption under Section 80G of Income-Tax Act.
 
Swadhar IDWC
C/o Nivara, 96, Navi Peth, Pune 411030 
Tel 020-244533452 

 

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