The 'Dharavi Diary Project' - a community based group which helps slum children infuse technology with innovation, has received the Google Rise Award- the only group to be selected in India, and among the three selected in Asia.
Founder Navneet Ranjan, who quit a lucrative job in San Francisco three years back, started the project after he felt things were not getting better any time soon. "I had made a film on these kids and when I returned to India I found that the conditions are the same, I decided to do something about it." What The Dharavi Diary does is, that it creates innovators instead of followers who solve their own community problems instead of relyin9- outsiders. Started with an all girls class of 15, the project now has more than 200 slum kids, who even have several apps on play store in their name.
A victim of bad housing facilities, bad health and sanitation, and a victim of domestic abuse, these kids have found through technology, a way to deal with them. "We make them channelise their fear into sustainable source. For example they say they are afraid to walk in the dark as the slums are tightly packed and there is no way to walk, so to solve it, they made solar powered lamps." Added Ranjan.
Through the Google Rise Award, the community center is all set receive seed money and sources to expand the project to other cities and states.
"I made an app that helps women tackle eve teasing in the area. It's very simple but has worked well in the past. As soon as a user presses a button available on the app, a police siren is generated and everyone can hear it. It also alerts the police with an SMS." Said Ansuja Madival, a Dharavi resident.
After two years, the Dharavi kids have not just upped their performance but also reduced the day to day violence that happens behind closed doors. "We council girls and boys to not sit quietly when they witness abuse at home. And thankfully it has stopped to a great extent. We even stopped a child marriage of a ten year old." Said Savita Soni, 15, who is all set to represent Mumbai in wrestling next week.
After Mumbai, The Dharavi Diary is all set to touch base in Pune. "The demographics are very different from Mumbai. So it's going to be a whole new challenge. For me, the end result of all the hard work is what keeps me going. The children keep me going." Ranjan smiles.