As a Quest Fellow, Sachin created and led initiatives to inform parents and their children about their rights and ways to realise these. He led programmes that resulted in more girls in school, fewer high school dropouts and a significant reduction in the level of crime in his slum community in Mumbai. He also successfully mobilised his community to demand that a bridge that had been under construction on a dangerous road for almost three years be completed. Sachin says his fellowship training restored his faith in the ability of ordinary people to catalyse change.
From an early age, Sachin read widely and questioned the religious and caste-based dogma he was taught. In his final years of school, he joined several local organisations promoting equality and freedom through community activities. When President Clinton visited India in 2000, Sachin attended a peaceful protest for street workers’ rights, where he was arrested and later beaten by police. This left him with a deep distrust of government and police authorities.
Sachin’s interest in equality and rights persisted, however, and this led him to volunteer with organisations that worked to realise the rights of local people. His commitment to his community was recognised in his work providing leadership training for young people with the organisation Vacha, where he was nominated for a Quest Fellowship.
Sachin began his fellowship work by visiting several hundred families to undertake a community needs assessment. Working closely with his mentor, he discovered one of the big challenges to keeping girls in school. Girls have the right to remain in school until 10th standard, but they or their parents must have valid ID cards – and this prevents many girls from continuing with their education.
“I may not be able to change everything, but now I know I can change something,” says Sachin.
Sachin created programmes to provide access to information on rights to ID cards and education for almost 100 women and their daughters, empowering the girls to take control of their own education. Sachin also recognised that a key factor behind the large number of school dropouts was a deep-seated ambivalence about the value of education, so he organised street plays to encourage parents to send their children to school.
Working with community groups, Sachin supported children affected by verbal or physical abuse by helping them to submit a written report to the police that requested them to patrol specific areas identified as crime hotspots. This led to an increased police presence and a dramatic fall in the number of crimes reported in their slum community.
Over the course of his fellowship year, Sachin learnt how the law can be used to the community’s advantage – a tool to empower, rather than constrain. His confidence increased through his training and advocacy and communication skills, and he built strong relationships with young people as well as with teachers and local police.
Since completing the fellowship, Sachin is focusing on building a greater rapport between parents and local community organisations to strengthen networks and deepen the impact of his ongoing programmes. He is also building the leadership of the young people on his programmes who are now able to approach the police together to confront them on injustices.
“Sachin has a unique ability to inspire and motivate other leaders,” says his mentor, “an attribute that will no doubt secure him and his work a lasting legacy in his community.”