Shachi Singh

Shachi Singh

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keya

Social Worker and Founder General Secretary of Ehsaas, NGO

Keya Banerjee

s. Shachi Singh, an active social worker and founder of a non-government organisation, which is working for the all-round development of children in difficult circumstances in Lucknow and Uttar Pradesh. After acquiring a degree in Social Work in 2000, she set up the NGO with like-minded people for street children by the name of Ehsaas in 2002. With a vision to create systems in the society that are child friendly and protective, Ehsaas works towards helping marginalized children so that they can lead respectable lives and fight various stigmas. She also built Gharonda, a home for street children, which became a home in the true sense for the children by providing them regular education, healthcare, vocational training and most importantly, a family.

She got appreciations at the national level for her initiatives towards society. The Home Placement Camps organised at government homes in Lucknow to reunite children with their families got the appreciation of the National Child Rights Commission and was hailed as a unique endeavour worthy of being replicated in other parts of the country, till now over 100 children have been home placed from the Government children home at Mohan Road Lucknow. Considering that her work has garnered attention nationally, it is not surprising that she is the only non-government member nominated by the Ministry of Women and Child Development from Uttar Pradesh to be on the high powered Committee for Child Rights periodic report.

She firmly believes that change be brought about not by mere discussions and debates in our drawing rooms on the condition of our system but by taking an initiative. Her efforts for the upliftment of marginalised children are directed at sensitising both, the policy makers and the society. The U.P. Children’s Parliament organised in 2008 was the first of its kind and brought together children from the entire state to put before the government their demands and rights. The recently concluded Mera Bachpan, Mera Haq: A Child Rights Awareness Week was her idea of involving the society in children’s issues that must be dealt with. As a woman and mother, it would have been very easy for her to give up her dreams for other children to bring up her own. But she chose to opt for the road less travelled, to successfully balance her private life with her professional. In her life and work, she has been inspired by the ideals of Swami Vivekananda and believes that she has came out successful out of every trial, struggle or problem because of how his philosophy influenced her. “Take up an idea, devote yourself to it, struggle on in patience and the sun will rise for you,” he said. That’s exactly what Shachi Singh has done!

Early life

The general secretary and co- founder of Ehsaas, Mrs. Shachi Singh did her schooling from Loreto Convent, Lucknow. After graduating from Delhi University with an Honours degree in BSc Home Science and a specialisation in Child Development, she went on to do her Masters in Social Work from Lucknow University. Since then, she has been actively involved in working for children in difficult circumstances. Shachi Singh began her career with a dream – the dream to make the world a better place for children. Realising the privileges of her life as a child, she questioned the unfairness of unequal opportunities for children. Even in her teenage years, she was moved to tears by the sight of young children having to give up their studies to go to work. As early as then, she had resolved to do something for these marginalised children of society. With time, came greater clarity. In 1993, at the age of 16, she began teaching children of a nearby slum dwelling at home. By the time she graduated, she knew she had veered towards social work despite doubts raised by friends and family about the judiciousness of the plan. Her dream to secure child rights for all was dismissed as an immature and impractical vision to change the system. But Shachi’s conviction in her dreams helped her to tide over the resistance and to make the impossible seem possible. She started teaching working children on the platforms of the Charbagh railway station, heralding change with her work at the grass root level.

Life events leading to the inspiration to get involved in the area of social work

For those who want to help others, there’s no dearth of inspiration even in everyday life. For Shachi Singh, the realisation that she wants to do something for children in difficult circumstances came when she was still in school. The sight of a helpless child in a roadside shanty, who has been harassed by her parents, quit studying and takes up work, propelled Shachi to start thinking about the welfare of such children. She utilised her summer vacations as a 16-year-old to bring together a group of children of the neighbourhood from the lower income group to teach them at home. Finally, when the time came to choose a ‘career’ for herself, Shachi Singh chose her calling in life. Armed with a post-graduate degree in Social Work, she joined an NGO and began working with children at the railway station. From teaching children who make a living by working on railway platforms under the side of a tree on the station, to finding like-minded people and setting up Ehsaas, an organisation for street children and finally to working with policy makers to make the Charbagh Railway Station in Lucknow a child labour free station — the only one of its kind in the country — Shachi went from strength to strength. She drew her inspiration from every homeless, hapless child she encountered who were being exploited sometimes by their families and sometimes by society, and realised they needed a voice of an adult to express and address their anguish. Shachi is now working towards a model city for children — a child- friendly city.

Achievements

Ehsaas has initiated several path-breaking concepts in the field of child protection under the leadership of Ms. Shachi Singh. Lucknow’s first drop-in shelter for street children in and around Charbagh was set up under her guidance to provide them basic amenities such as food, clothing and educational assistance. The drop-in shelter was a stepping stone towards the realisation of one of the most passionate dreams that Shachi had nurtured all along a   full-fledged home for street children. The realisation of that dream came with Gharonda, which is a model home for street children all over the country. Unlike an orphanage or a government home, Gharonda seeks to be a home in the true sense for children on the streets by providing them regular education, healthcare, vocational training and most importantly, a family.  Set up in a residential area rather than the outskirts of the city, it provides an opportunity to the children to be part of the mainstream society. This is a place that gives wings to their dreams.  Presently there are 20 childen at Gharonda. 10 children of Gharonda have moved on to find their own identity- and are well placed such one of the boys works at India TV as an ad editor 2 of them are pursuing a career in accountancy and 1 as a computer programmer.


One of her biggest achievements though has been the setting up of the Railway Child Surveillance and Protection at the Charbagh Railway Station which has led to creation of Lucknow Charbagh Station as the Country’s first Child Friendly Station by the end of 2011.Which aims at creating an environment free from abuse and exploitation for children. Through this unique initiative every year nearly 250 children who may be lost, runaway or trafficked are reunited with their parents. Nearly 400 children are provided shelter, food, vocational training, counselling and de -addiction facilities to become part of mainstream society. Till date, the mechanism has rescued over 3000 children. An extension of this initiative was to ensure that each child send to his home is safe, which is a pilot project in 5 districts of Uttar Pradesh (Raibaelly, Sultanpur, Moradabad, Barabanki and Baharaich) by the name of Rehabilitation Support Mechanism for Reunited children. And this is considered as a best practice by the Women and Child Development Ministry and has reached out to nearly 280 children in 1 year.

Ms. Shachi Singh has honoured with many prestigious awards, which includes the Amazing Indian Award by The Times Now in 2012, the 1st Runner up award of HT WOMEN of the year 2013 by Hindustan Times Group, Bal Raksha Samman by Search Foundation, Lucknow in 2009 etc. She is also a member of several State and National Level Committees on Child Rights.

Future Plan

Shachi Singh dreams to make Lucknow a Safe City for Children where there are systems, infrastructure and society sensitive towards children’s needs.

About the author

CSR VISION
CSR VISION is India's (probably World's) first monthly magazine in print devoted to CSR and Sustainable Development for bringing together all stakeholders of SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT at a global and local levels and act as a platform for promoting strategic CSR and sustainable development practices through dissemination of information and knowledge.