SWABHIMAAN

Swabhimaan, which means "self-respect" in English, has been a registered public Charitable Trust since August of 2000.  It was born with the intent to shelter and raise the girl children of deserted mothers.

In 1999, Vijaya and Venkat Iyer moved to Bangalore with the intention of devoting their lives to public service, there they met Mrs. Radha Ramadurai, who shared their passion for community service.  They worked with a few NGOs in Bangalore and soon realized that not many organizations catered to the needs of deserted women and their children.  There are many such cases, especially in poor communities, where women are thrown out of their homes for various reasons ranging from another woman in the husband's life, or for having given birth to a girl child.  Most people believe that since both parents are alive, the children were not in dire need of support.  Contrary to that logic, in such cases, the responsibilities of taking care of the children fall solely on the often young and uneducated mothers, with devastating results for the children.

There are just a few transit homes in Bangalore that take in such women and their children.  The homes provide food and shelter and help to nurse their emotional wounds. The programs educate and train these women so that they can provide for themselves and their children with at least a minimal income.  But problems often arise after they attain jobs and leave the transit homes.  In most cases, the mothers have to work from morning until evening, leaving the children out on the streets or at the mercy of their neighbors. These situations are extremely dangerous for the children, as abuse is very common, especially for young girls.  The Iyers saw that these children suffered even more than orphans and soon realized that these women and children desperately needed support and secure environments. The Iyers and Mrs. Ramadurai joined forces and created Swabhimaan, to help such mothers and their children, and became trustees of the organization. 

Today, the trustees are proud guardians of fifteen wonderful girls.  They live in a house with two women, who the girls call "Akka" or "elder sister" in English.  The Akkas take care of the girls – they feed them, clothe them, maintain the house, and provide them with love.  The trustees are also a part of the girls' daily routine, as they visit every single day after the girls are home from school, to help them with their homework, and to bond with the girls.  It is indeed like one large family.  In Bangalore, where the local dialect is Kannada, the government schools teach English only as a second language.  That fact leaves many, if not all, children from poor communities with a huge disadvantage when it comes time to apply to college or to find jobs.  The Swabhimaan girls attend private schools, where all of the subjects are taught in English.  In addition to school, the children take classes in Bharatnatyam dance, music, and art. 

The success of the program is borne out by the fact that the children have a happy and supportive environment in which they can each cultivate and pursue their dreams and aspirations.  The trustees inculcate a lot of values in the children thus making sure that they all become good human beings first and then successful professionals second.  The trustees believe that of foremost importance is instilling a sense of self-respect and self-reliance within each child, providing her with the inner-strength that she will need to direct and live her life without relying on others.  The trustees encourage the girls' natural mothers to visit as often as possible.  They believe that it is of utmost importance that the children grow up with the knowledge that they have mothers, who, though unfortunately have no means of taking care of them, love them deeply.

Though there are an endless number of children who need such services in Bangalore, the trustees have decided to limit their work to these fifteen girls.  They feel that any more would compromise the individualized attention that is important to the girls' upbringing.  The program's vision is to assure that all the fifteen children are very well-educated, and have the skills they need to fulfill their goals in life.