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Escaping poverty in India’s Bombay Hotel slum

Escaping poverty in India’s Bombay Hotel slum

In Ahmedabad city, Gujarat, families uprooted by communal riots and urban development have been forced into slums with inadequate basic facilities. The city’s Bombay Hotel colony – home to around 40,000 people – has poor housing, drainage or sanitation and no schools or other basic civic services. With most living hand-to-mouth, few families are able to support the education of their children.

As a result, around 40% of children in the area do not go to school. About one-third are pushed by poverty into work – often in the surrounding textile factories, scrap industry and iron manufacturing units. Others work as rubbish collectors, rag-pickers and scrap-sorters. With scarce access to education, few have a chance of building poverty-free futures.

Brighter futures for Bombay Hotel children

However, an Islamic Relief project – which began last summer – is giving the children of Bombay Hotel the chance to build brighter futures. Teaming up with local charity the Centre for Development, we are providing children with improved services and educational opportunities.

Almost 360 children have accessed the high-quality basic education on offer at our eight education centres. Each child receives specific support based on their particular learning needs. Of these, around 270 children have already progressed into mainstream government schools.

More than 1,700 other children have enrolled in schools as a result of our enrolment drive – the first of its kind in the area – and over 100 teachers have received training on child protection.

Improving child protection

Targeting mostly girls, the centres also educate children about gender equality, reproductive health, and child rights, as well as sexual abuse and domestic violence. More than 480 girls have received life skills training so far.

Children are also benefitting from eight child protection committees, which are mobilising communities to lobby public institutions on child rights and protection – with an emphasis on food security and shelter, as well as access to basic services.

Almost 360 children and their families are able to access subsidised healthcare, in an initiative delivered in conjunction with Kothari hospital.

Mehzabin dreams of being a teacher

Sahikh Mehzabin, 15, lives in Bombay Hotel. Her mother is the main breadwinner, with Mehzabin doing handicraft and making plastic garlands to help her family to pay the bills. She dropped out of school at eighth grade.

When her mother joined one of our education centres as a volunteer looking after children, Sahikh Mehzabin saw an opportunity to continue her studies. Having been out of school for a long time, she was nervous about making new friends – but with counselling and guidance she gained confidence.

Sultana dreams of becoming a social worker

Sultana Mohammed, 16, lives with her parents and younger siblings in Bombay Hotel. To help her parents, she does all the household chores and earns money by working as a tailor. Due to her responsibilities, she dropped out of school.

When she heard about the centre, Sultana was keen to study again. Her father would not agree at first, because of concerns for his daughter’s safety as she walked alone to the centre. When he changed his mind, Sultana says it was the happiest day of her life. After months of juggling her studies and her chores, she is now preparing for her exams.

“My dream is to become a social worker,” she said. “Not only to support the education of my younger sisters and brothers, but also to help other girls like me to become educated and independent.”

Riyaz is a diligent student

Shaikh Mohammad Riyaz Almajeer grew up in Mumbai, and completed his primary education in Hindi. Then his father died, and Riyaz came to live with his aunt and uncle in Ahmedabad, where he helped them to run their shop. Lacking knowledge in the local language, Gujarati, he had no opportunity to pursue further study.

Riyaz heard about the education centre through his friends. He persuaded his uncle to forego his work in the shop. Now, he works in the morning and studies at the centre in the afternoon. He is learning Gujarati and preparing for his board exams next year. His teachers say he is a diligent student, who is eager to learn new things.

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