Society

The right foundations for the future

NGO Thinking Hand holds a workshop for underprivileged Muslim women at Kishan bagh in Attapur, Hyderabad. The workshop was organised by Santosh Kumar Ketham and Safa Baitul Maal’s Mufti who are teaching neglected women how to create functional and low-cost furniture out of cardboard.   | Photo Credit: G Ramakrishna

It’s remarkable how much one can learn in the space of a couple of hours. Behind Masjid-e-Ashraf Kareem, a small community centre is abuzz with busy hands of women constructing sturdy-looking structures out of cardboard. The women vary in age from teens to 50s, but the goal is universal: to learn how to keep their families sustained.

Mufti, one of the organisers from Safa Centre Kishan Bagh of Safa Baitul Maal, has long been involved in the betterment of the community’s conditions. With his youngest daughter perched on his lap and occasionally running off to help the workshop participants with the building, he turns to me with bright eyes as he preps to talk about his organisation’s efforts. He says he’s here to just make sure the girls are happy and doing well, especially as he himself has four daughters.

The Thinking Hand team with Mufti at the community centre in Kishan bagh

The Thinking Hand team with Mufti at the community centre in Kishan bagh   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

So how far do these efforts to empower the area go back? He recalls a survey he did of a few thousand families in the surrounding neighbourhoods, getting a consensus of the family’s socio-economic situation. He found many of the families have been left without a primary breadwinner — usually a man— who either died, abandoned his family, or was left disabled by an accident. “We wanted to help them,” he states, “because a lot of these women are working as housemaids and that’s not enough to keep a family of four to seven fed, clothed and sheltered.”

Valuable link-up

With a lot of poor working conditions for these women, it felt right to set up a clinic. After doing the preliminary survey, the Safa Centre Kishan Bagh set up a clinic. The clinic operates on an income basis providing coloured cards. For those with white cards, their income will be ₹6,000 to ₹7,000 and their medical treatment and medications would be free. Of the population of the area, 80% are white card-holders. For conditions involving blood sugar and thyroid, the clinic provides medication for the whole month. This establishment operates six days a week from 6pm till 10pm, after a lot of the families would be home after work, observing 50 to 70 patients a day.

During a consequent food drive, Thinking Hand and the Safa Centre linked up, wanting to bring more to area.

NGO Thinking Hand holds a workshop for underprivileged Muslim women at Kishan bagh in Attapur, Hyderabad. The workshop was organised by Santosh Kumar Ketham and Safa Baitul Maal’s Mufti who are teaching neglected women how to create functional and low-cost furniture out of cardboard.

NGO Thinking Hand holds a workshop for underprivileged Muslim women at Kishan bagh in Attapur, Hyderabad. The workshop was organised by Santosh Kumar Ketham and Safa Baitul Maal’s Mufti who are teaching neglected women how to create functional and low-cost furniture out of cardboard.   | Photo Credit: G Ramakrishna

Ketham Santosh Kumar is an urban strategist and practising architect who co-founded NGO Thinking Hand. As per the organisation’s name, it aims to go beyond merely lending a helping hand but also to aggrandise and empower the situations of women in rural and/or neglected communities. “I found way too many women here left to fend for themselves while their primary male provider has either passed away or disappeared. It’s been good to see their stories change over the past couple of days.” The workshop has about 10 volunteers from different interactions Santosh and Mufti have had over the years of working.

By building low-cost furniture out of cardboard boxes, the participants are pushed to understand concepts of team-building, communication, architectural principles and concepts, the value of sustainable materials, practicality and pragmatism, time management and how to source material for building.

Chetna, a fashion design student at NIFT, photo-documents the workshops, explaining, “Santosh sir is one of the faculty at NIFT so that’s how I got into the project here. It’s been so wonderful to see how much the NGO is really helping them. Seeing the girls and women this happy is great. This is also a really important skill. It’s been a privilege to cover and to work closely on a project like this.”

One participant of around 14 years says, “I’m learning a lot and it’s good to see these skills will be useful in other places. It’s important to be taken seriously and not treated like I’m supposed to be at home.” She also points out the Masjid by the community centre has also taught her valuable tailoring skills and she’s made many friends there, which helps her feel less alone.

While the community values already exist, organisations like Thinking Hand and the Safa Centre are all about helping the people bring them to the surface.


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Printable version | Jun 17, 2021 4:39:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/thinking-hand-ngo-hyderabad-teaches-women-to-buid-low-cost-furniture/article25164318.ece

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