Living a Life off the Railway Tracks

Living a Life off the Railway Tracks

Written by Mariah Farzana
Edited by Sing Suen Soon

In Mumbai, there are 57,416 homeless people. Yet, approximately 200 homeless people are fortunate to have a roof over their heads, of which most are boys under 18.

The seven shelters around Mumbai have their hands full. With limited capacities to meet the ever growing rate of homelessness, young girls without homes become exposed to high risk of exploitation as they wander the streets of Mumbai every day.

Homeless adolescent girls and young women are fundamentally the “poorest of the poor”. They are often tricked or lured into the sex trade, with beggary and poor livelihood conditions defining their lives. It is their harsh reality that should not be.

URJA Trust is one of the foundations that realises this problem. Founded by Deepali Vandana, Altaf Sheik, Aditi Naik and Rizwana Nulwala in 2012, they set out with the mission to empower homeless young women by supporting their basic needs and providing opportunities for their economic, psychological, emotional, civil and social development. In a year alone, they could change the lives of near 80 young women.

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“In India, it’s challenging for women to make life decisions with her own choices. Society and her family decide her destiny.” said Deepali Vandana, one of the four founders of URJA Trust. “In addition to their gender, their class and caste matters as well. Ultimately, they become homeless because they [have stood up to victimization], acknowledged their integrity, and valued their own life.”

Deepali and her team initiated a project called SOCH – Journey with Homeless Young Women, which aims to provide homeless young women who have mental health issues with a holistic intervention; URJA Trust shelters them and equips them with targeted and tailored support for their education and vocational training. They want to eventually build these young women’s networks with sustainable jobs that can enable them to become independent. With their work, they hope to eliminate the number of women forced to sleep at Dadar Railway Station, which averages at 28 women weekly.

Deepali strongly believes that changing society is possible through the actions of these women themselves, who when empowered to lead lives of independence, freedom, and dignity, can bring about a positive impact.

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Their promising work has been recognized by a global social entrepreneurship challenge Project Inspire, an initiative by the Singapore Committee for UN Women and Mastercard. Project Inspire is in its 6th year of highlighting women empowerment programmes in Asia and the Pacific, and URJA Trust now stands a chance at becoming a finalist having secured a semi-finalist spot. To ensure their effort can continue, URJA Trust is now participating in a crowdfunding stage under Project Inspire. You can show them your support by voting for them on www.projinspire.com.

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