We often forget that we are protected by our Constitution. Our Constitution gives us rights that no one can take away from us. MARG, an NGO that works for legal empowerment of marginalised communities, brought this awareness to the local women of Savda Ghevra (a locality in New Delhi, India).
MARG organized workshops to bring awareness about rights and how to demand them. The workshops came as an eye opener for the women. They did not know that they could demand water, sanitation, toilets, health, transport and all other basic facilities that they lacked.
They prioritised their issues and decided that water is the first problem that they want to solve. As a first step, the women filed a Right to Information Applications (RTI) to find out how many water tankers were allotted to their colony. The RTI response revealed that Savda Ghevra was allotted 88 tankers per day, while in reality, only 22 arrived and that too not daily. With this information at hand, they filed another RTI to find where the missing tankers were going. The authorities now had to act. Delhi Jal Board ensured that each tanker was fitted with a GPS tracker so that they do not go ‘missing’. The women started to follow up every tanker individually. Within six months the entire water tanker supply got streamlined with fixed timings for the tanker arrivals.
As a key achievement through legal empowerment the women solved one issue after the other, such as, improved transportation, more buses got allotted to Savda Ghevra, better public toilets, sanitation and cleanliness, better health facilities, water pipelines are being laid, water ATMs have been installed – all these through legal means. These women have filed more than 200 RTIs till date!
These women are ordinary slum dwellers with little education, who do manual labour. Their lives are not easy and they do not get any monetary reward for their community work, but they come together as active citizens with an aspiration to better their lives.
Beyond these visible changes in the living conditions of the people, there is more change that is taking place within every woman who is a part of the Harshingar Active Women Cadre.
From bringing water supply to their community and improving sanitations conditions to saving a girl from being raped – these legally empowered women from Savda Ghevra’s slum resettlement are achieving more with higher motivation and faith in India’s Constitutional mechanism. Savda Ghevra has many more problems to solve – alcoholism, drug addiction, domestic violence and more. But looking at it positively, we know that the women of Harshingar Cadre are at work.