Dr. Kiran Martin will talk about Asha, an NGO working to transform half a million lives in the slums of Delhi. Established twenty-six years ago, Asha’s work has found a resonance around the world. Her lecture will describe four aspects of Asha’s work.
- How Asha delivers improved healthcare through an internationally acclaimed model of community health volunteers. These women from the slums have been trained to act as a trusted source of medical advice and a first line of defense against common health risks. Now respected leaders in their communities, the women have helped ensure that five times fewer babies die in Asha slums today, compared with 26 years ago.
- How Asha also helps slum-dwellers join together into knowledgeable pressure groups to tackle local issues, build links with officials and ensure the community’s basic rights. Children’s groups organize sanitation drives, encourage parents to send their children to school, and run errands for elderly slum residents. Registered as charities, the women’s collectives are a formidable presence when they visit government offices in groups to press for improved conditions and utilities.
- The third strand of Asha’s work is the groundbreaking financial inclusion scheme, which allows slum-dwellers for the first time to open savings accounts and take out bank loans. Devised by Asha with the Ministry of Finance and nine national banks in 2008, the venture has seen millions of rupees in loans put to good use: people have paid for their children’s education, and started or expanded a wide variety of businesses.
- Finally, the lecture will cover how over a thousand talented students from the slums have benefitted from Asha’s program for Higher Education. Launched six years ago, the program includes intensive support and practical advice, scholarships, professional mentors, and work experience in some of Delhi’s elite organizations.