Commentary and opinion on national and regional politics by Seema Malhotra

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Shelter Associates - A story of social housing in India

If you want to be blown away by the tenacity of a social entrepreneur, look no further than Pratima Joshi, architect and co-founder of Shelter Associates, India. Our #Dishaa group had the privilege of meeting her and understanding more about the NGO today, the challenges it has faced in working with, empowering and improving the housing of slum dwellers in Pune. The "before" and "after" shots on the website are a real testament to one of their most successful stories, that of a community relocated when their slum was going to be destroyed 12 years ago. The families that lived in homes made of tin sheeting with only loan sharks to fund them now live in Coop housing, running their community, managing budgets, holding down jobs. The children are at school learning multiple languages including English and clearly showing signs of aspiration of their own. This is a community that designed its own housing, the women literally made the beams that hold the flats together and year by year the progress of those families is a testament to the work of an NGO that has been fearless in its pursuit of better housing for the poor. We learnt directly from those women about how their health has also improved with less sickness than before. However as we left and drove past more tin shack slums on the hillside and roadside I couldn't help feeling that whilst what was achieved was a triumph of human spirit and solidarity, it was but a drop in the ocean of the change we need to see in the rest of India, which I hope we will see in my lifetime. And it brought home to me that behind every door made of tin sheeting is another family hoping for a better home that can be a base from which they can start to give themselves and their children a better life.