In the Slums of Mumbai, Turning Solidarity into a Career

El viaje de las mujeres

Los viajes de las mujeres son retratos de mujeres inspiradoras que reciben el apoyo de nuestros socios.

To stimulate a virtuous circle of mutual aid

Sheela was born in northern India. She came to Mumbai, one of the most densely populated cities in the world, when she was a child. Her father moved there with his family to look for work. Growing up in a financially unstable home, Sheela had to start working when she was 12 years old. One day in her neighborhood she came across KGST* (Keshav Gore Smarak Trust), a local association, and signed up for one of its training programs. «Later, when I was looking for work, I contacted a woman from the association. She told me about their Family Development Program (FDP). It was located in the area, and she offered to introduce me to the director. I had no experience in social work, but he was impressed by my enthusiasm and offered me a job,» says Sheela. «After I joined the team as a social worker, the program coordinator advised me to sign up for training in social work and counseling. » 14 years later, Sheela is still working at KGST, where she supervises two other social workers.

Developing autonomy and inspiring mutual support

Sheela’s mission is to support families by working with the women, helping them identify and prioritize their needs and providing information about the public and private services available to them.  «After conducting a door-to-door survey with families in a slum, we try to evaluate their living conditions and their needs. Then we identify the homes that would benefit from individual support,» Sheela explains. «We provide support to the poorest families in the slum. This means developing trust and respecting confidentiality, understanding their needs and feelings, and providing precise, relevant information to direct them to the available public and private services.» Whether it’s health, education or their economic situation, many mothers haven’t even heard of the services that are there to assist them. Helping them prioritize their needs, developing their self-confidence and decision making skills , and guiding them through the administrative tasks ultimately makes them more independent. «Working for the association has had a positive impact on my life. I’ve learned from the women we work with that even after countless difficulties, self-confidence can help anyone succeed. When they acknowledge our hard work, and when they reach their goals, it encourages me to keep fighting.»

Ultimately, Sheela sees the Family Development Program as an encouraging springboard: «I hope that, thanks to our work, families will become more proactive in overcoming the difficulties they encounter, and that they in turn will help other families.» In a country where nearly a quarter of all urban families live in the slums, Sheela’s work truly inspires mutual support.


* KGST is a local partner in India of the ATIA association, supported by Fondation CHANEL.