‘The Sanginis are truly the heart and soul of the Little Sisters project’

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SNEHA had launched the Little Sister Project as part of its Prevention of Violence against Women and Children program in 2014. The Project uses mobile technology to track and report domestic violence in Dharavi, and to seek intervention during crisis. Damini Mohan, who coordinated the project for 18 months, recently left to pursue higher education. She agreed to speak to us about the highs and lows she felt while coordinating this important and one-of-a-kind intervention.

Q) What were some of the challenges you faced in coordinating the implementation of the ‘Little Sister’ Project?

Damini: One of the biggest challenges I faced was addressing  technological malfunction. We built a customized interface with the help of a tech developer which was occasionally prone to bugs. With almost 100 live users, managing the tech ‘crisis’ while ensuring work doesn’t get hampered for our Sanginis (community workers), field staff and counsellors was an exercise in enthusiastic team work, logistics and keeping up spirits!

Q) In terms of implementing a mobile technology project in a low resource context, what have your stand out learnings been?

Damini: I think it is important to acknowledge the significance of giving a smartphone to a woman in an urban informal settlement in modern India. Along with reporting cases on the Little Sister app, Sanginis used the smartphones to Google recipes, manage household budgets and contact family and friends on Whatsapp. Digital literacy was an unplanned though welcome outcome of the Little Sister project. The one drawback was the never-ending high phone bills which SNEHA was footing. We revised the data plan, shifting from postpaid to pre-paid to ensure the project remained low-cost while offering Sanginis opportunities to explore and learn about the digital world.

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Q) Could you elaborate on some of the art-based activities you piloted in the community?

Damini: During this year’s 16 days activism, four Sanginis faciliatated an art campaign, “Mera phone, meri kahani”. They felt that as Little Sister Sanginis, they were confidantes of women facing violence and the phone was like a box of secrets. They worked with community women to create ‘phones’ out of shoeboxes, each with a story of violence inside. The participants enjoyed crafting the boxes and creating a story to put inside the box. The Sanginis, facilitated the session were confident, eloquent and demonstrated excellent leadership skills!

Q) Personally, what has been the one gratifying thing about running the Little Sisters project?

Damini:  It has been very gratifying to work with an excellent team, both the staff at SNEHA as well as the Sanginis who are truly the heart and soul of the Little Sisters project. Their fierceness to speak out against violence, commitment to help out women and children in distress, their curiosity and zeal about technology and their formidable spirit will stay with me for a lifetime. It was an honor and a privilege to work with them!

Thank you, Damini! Wishing you the best for the future!

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