A second home

A second home

WOMENS SHELTER

A second home

spacious The kitchen at the Asha Kirana Home.

When Pooja’s (name changed) husband abandoned her and her young daughter, she had no idea where to go. She didn’t earn, and couldn’t afford to enrol her child in a preschool or creche. Then, one of her friends suggested that she contact the Asha Kirana Short Stay Home for Women. Twenty days later, Pooja believes that this was the best decision she could have made. “There is plenty of work to keep myself busy during the day, and my daughter now goes to school,” she says, proudly.

There are several homes that provide temporary shelter to abandoned women in the City. The Asha Kirana Home, which currently houses 29 women, is one of them. The inmates, mostly abandoned women and unwed mothers, are referred to the home by other NGOs and are provided with hygienic residential and medical facilities, three meals a day and vocational training.

“A gynaecologist visits twice a week, and the women are all taught to sew,” explains a social worker at the home. The intent is to enable them to support themselves. The women are also employed as cooks and teachers at the attached primary school. When they feel that they can support themselves, they leave.

The Abhaya Ashram’s Women Centre, on the other hand, first tries reuniting these women with their families. “We contact their families for joint counselling sessions. However, if family rehabilitation is completely impossible, we find them employment through tie-ups with different government institutions. The women are also hired as attendants in working women’s hostels,” says Marina, a counsellor at the centre.

The women also earn while in the shelter. The paper bags and garments that they make during their vocational training are sold and they receive a part of the profit. They are also employed as cooks and cleaners inside the home. The centre also has tie-ups with different hospitals and adoption agencies for unwed mothers.

Not all of these homes, however, provide temporary shelter. The House of Mercy, for HIV positive women, is a much more permanent retreat. Infected women and their children are referred to the home by hospitals and NGOs. Once in the home, they are provided with residential, medical and counselling facilities and help with in-house cooking and cleaning. However, no attempts at rehabilitating these women are made. In fact, once registered, they aren’t allowed to leave the home at all, except to see their families occasionally.

“We aren’t encouraged to leave because sometimes, inmates bring visitors into the home and cause a nuisance,” says Mallika (name changed), a resident of the home. Mallika was diagnosed as being infected in 2004, and was brought here by her family. But not all of the women in this home are voluntary inmates. Mallika admits that some are sent to the home by NGOs and their families against their will. “Initially, they may be depressed because it’s difficult to adjust. However, there are counselling facilities in the home, and we explain to them that they will be more comfortable here,” she says.

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