15 Transforming Communities, RESTORING HUMAN DIGNITY - Fr. Lancy Pinto

posted Aug 14, 2018, 9:12 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 14, 2018, 9:12 AM ]
In the late 1980s, the diocese worked in two parishes on an experimental basis. The aim was to implement one of the five diocesan goals, namely, to be a serving Church and become involved in people's struggles. Aptly chosen for this experiment were the parishes of St Jude at Jeri Meri, Kurla West and St Anthony at Saki Naka. Both parishes had one common denominator – namely, parishoners who then lived in chawls, and were economically marginalised. They (with people of other faiths) collectively faced many challenges of inadequate basic amenities – like water, sanitation, public toilets, solid waste management, lack of roads and transport to the interiors of the community, and most important of all, lack of education. Having no education or being school drop-outs, the job market was out of their reach, and hence they were employed in the unorganised sector with no job security, job benefits and paid less than the stipulated minimum wages. In addition, majority of them were migrants from other states, unfamiliar with the local language, surroundings, opportunities for work etc. Their daily struggles also included multiple evictions from their rented homes, built by locals on illegally acquired land. Gender-wise, women were doubly challenged, as most were housebound, looking after home and hearth, sometimes the elderly, and often victims of domestic abuse, dowry and rape.

Against this background, Centres for Community Organisation (CCO) were establised in both parishes, first to make people aware of their rights and responsibilities, and then enable them to claim these collectively. Women were particularly targeted, because of their availability at home. Collectives of women were formed and empowered through regular workshops and training, enabling them to deal with challenges faced daily. One of the bigger challenges that affected women most was their rights within marriage, with the ratio being highest among Muslim women. To deal with this, the CCO in Jeri Meri identified the need for an in-depth para-legal training for women leaders of the community.