By Kelly Munro

IN a tiny village on the outskirts of Mumbai, one organization is making a huge difference.

For over 29 years Vidhayak Sansad has been working with the most neglected and abused people in Thane district, educating them on their rights and their freedom to fight back. Through their dedication to make a difference, and with assistance from their partner organization Shramjeevi Sanghatana, they have freed, rehabilitated and supported over 5000 bonded laborers. Their core mission has always been to ensure “A just and equitable society where every individual lives in dignity”.

However, in the small village of Usgaon, many women were not treated equally and did not live with dignity. This is where Vidhayak Sansad stepped in. A school was built, with the aim of educating and empowering women, particularly young girls. They provided a place to sleep, to eat, to learn, to grow. The program was called Mahila Thingi, meaning Women’s Spark; a fire was lit inside each and every girl who attended this school, one that could never be put out.

Mahila Thingi is a program that aims to provide women with knowledge about their rights and how to fight for them. It works to encourage employment, education and women in governance. Much of this is taught to young girls living at the school, so that as they grow up they know what to demand from life.

The school currently houses over 250 girls between the ages of 6-16. Most of the students are from the Katkari tribe, which commonly has extremely low literacy rates. Many of the girls at the school have little or no contact with their families, while some are orphans.

Pooja lost her family when she was only young, leaving her with no way of accessing an education. Vidhayak Sansad took her in, gave her a place to live and study. She now studies Law, a path which she could have never dreamed possible.

Many families from all over Maharashtra now wish to send their daughters, sisters, nieces to Vidhayak Sansad’s school. However the school is unable to take on anymore students, with the boarding rooms and classes completely full. A second school, with the ability to board 600 girls, is now in the making. When the building of this school is completed, Vidhayak Sansad will be able to change the lives of thousands of women.

Since 1979 Vidhayak Sansad has been making a huge difference to the small community in Usgaon. The girls who attend this school have a multitude of options open to them through the hard work of the teachers, staff and volunteers. No doubt this organization will continue to change lives for years to come.

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