‘Dharavi Girls’ Project Aims to Inspire With Tech

(Image: WikiMedia, Creative Commons)

(Image: WikiMedia, Creative Commons)

A group of teenage girls in Dharavi are driving change with science and technology through the creation of apps that help to keep women safe, find water, and offer education.

The initiative was started by filmmaker Nawneet Ranjan, who arrived in Dharavi in 2012 to document the daily lives of the people who live there.  While shooting, he became affected by the lack of inspiration in the lives of the girls there, who did not have any ambition or motivation to better their lives, which were full of hardships, injustices, and domestic violence.

Ranjan, a San Francisco resident, decided to move to Dharavi in 2014 in an effort to help offer the girls a reason to live by giving them the confidence they needed to learn that they could have better lives.  A slum innovation project was started by Ranjan in Naya Nagar, which he called Dharavi Diary of 2014.  The girls, between the ages of 12 and 14, learned coding through a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) Learning Program which then allowed them to make use of an open source app development tool called the MIT App Inventor to help them create their apps.

One of the apps created by the girls, Paani, lets slum residents know when they can collect water from the community tap.  The app works to make the lives of those who live there easier by saving them the time that they had previously spent standing in line waiting for their turn each day, writes Neeti Vijaykumar for The Better India.

Another app, Women Fight Back, was made in an effort to help women feel safe.  The app features a distress alarm, SMS alerts, and location mapping, in addition to a feature for emergency contact numbers.

The girls also created an app for education that teaches students on a variety of subjects, including math, English, and science.  Rather than using traditional teaching methods, the app teaches users through experiential activities such as taking photographs of an object in order to learn its name.

Yet another app works to teach children the importance of waste management through the processes of collecting and segregating.  The app also pushes the importance of recycling in order to make new items, reports Sonam Joshi for Mashable.

Additional educational apps are in the works, including one that features tutorials and educational materials.  Some of these apps have not yet been released on the market and are still in the testing phase.

The girls took part in the Technovation Challenge, a competition celebrating the work of women and girls in the development of innovative technology in 2014, winning phones and laptops, as well as other prizes.

Two years after it started, Ranjan’s project has grown to help 200 students, including boys, by offering the children of Dharavi the opportunity to dream, writes Poulomi Das for Business Insider.

However, a fire hit the community in January, causing serious damage and resulting in the loss of phones, laptops, and everyday essentials such as blankets, clothes, books, and beds.