At a time when the future of Project Why is hanging by a thread as we struggle to find our feet and long term sustainability, I sometimes find myself in need of a feel good shot to reassure me and give me the needed impetus to soldier on. One of the things I find myself doing is looking back at the two decades gone by and reliving a chapter of the Project Why story. Today I look back at our Khader women centre as it is one that may have to be shut by March 2020 if we are not able to find funding for it.
Like every part of Project Why, the women centre has a wondrous story. Though I have always believed that true change is to be routed through women, something Kamala my mother firmly believed in, it took some time for the women centre to see the light of day. The obvious way would have been to seed a women centre at the very outset but that was not to be as Project Why grew organically answering the whys that came its way. It would be the same for the women centre, a why that needed to be answered.
When two marginalised women one an alcoholic on the road to recovery and the other needing post surgery care came our way seeking help, we had to step up and give it. The need of the hour was to create a safe place for them to help them rebuild their lives. We did just that: set up a small residential facility for these two ladies. Easier said than done as when the community came to know about them, we were asked to vacate the premisses. Society is not kind to marginalised women. That is when we realised that to be able to find a place to house our ladies, we would need to do more than just that. We decided to follow the pattern of the other centres and set up a children centre next to our residential unit and also run a vocational centre to empower women of the community. We were lucky to find the exact space we needed at Madanpur Khader and the women centre began its activities in 2007 with two ladies in a residential facility, scores of children in an after school study programme and a handful of women in a stitching course. Our women centre was well on its way.
We would go on to close our residential centre as sadly one woman went back to the bottle and the other healed and went back to normal life. The space reclaimed would be used to extend our work with children and women. We would add a beautician course, secondary classes, a library and a computer centre as well as adult education classes. Today the Khader centre is a family of over 350 souls with a team of 15 people gently but firmly guided by the incomparable Dharmendra. One of our funders wrote beautifully about this centre. I share her words here.
Needless to say, I dedicated the centre to Kamala as every lesson I learnt at her knee was fulfilled within the walls of this beautiful centre.
The Khader centre is also dear to my heart for many other reasons. It was Utpal’s home for a while as that is where his mum was recovering before she finally left to disappear. It was the place where we first saw Meher and were able to conjure a better life for her. Today both Meher and Utpal come back and volunteer at Project Why during their holidays. There is really a kind of magic in this hallowed place.
So closing it is not an easy option. I will have to do whatever is needed to ensure that our work carries on. Today I want to believe in miracles and pray for one.