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Samiksha Seth
20 Apr 2016 . 4 min read

Building Apps Is Not Restricted To Techies – Girls From Dharavi Prove it!


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Sunita saw her maid’s daughter [Kirti]  busy with her Smartphone; she scolded her mother for exposing her kid to mobile when she should be playing and studying. Kirti overheard the conversation and replied – Aunty, I am coding, we are building an app that would register complaints our society has, and then those would be forwarded to the concerned volunteers. Sunita was awestruck!

The above situation may be hypothetical, but do you see a possibility of this happening in real life?

Mumbai's Dharavi just turned the above scenario into reality. Thanks to The Dharavi Diary slum innovation project, that Dharavi is the new home to some of the greatest innovations in technology.

Nawneet Ranjan started to shoot a documentary film in 2012 called as Dharavi Diary. His focus was neighborhood girls who are raised in tough circumstances and are abused or victims of domestic violence. He wanted to expose the teenagers to technology and how they could use this technology for their betterment.

Ranjan started to teach the basics of coding by using open source technology like MIT App Inventor, PowerPoint presentation, online video tutorials, and documentary films. Ranjan says. "I showed them how technology can be used to solve problems and improve their job opportunities. I told them that these were things that they could learn on their own."

John Dewey said - “a problem well put is half solved.”

With technology in hands, girls geared up to solve the problems of their locality and provide a more structured environment for living. The first project started by the girl gang was the Android app Women Fight Back focuses on women's safety and has features like SMS alerts, location mapping, distress alarm and emergency calls to contacts. Other projects which are in the pipeline are Padhai App – that contains lessons and tutorials for girls who cannot go to school, Paani App – that alerts people about their turn to fill water from common taps and tanks.

The project that started with 15 girls is now training and nurturing 200 girls. The kids are also encouraged to do their daily jobs and still continue learning. For example, they are asked to take pictures of what they consider nouns and pronouns and collect stuff to create an X-BOX while collecting garbage.

Ansuja Madhiwal, the 14-year old girl who built the Women Fight Back App hopes to become a computer engineer, 14-year-old Fauzia Aslam Ansari, who built the Paani App says - If enough users sign in to the app, she hopes a streamlined system can be created where people can save time and avoid arguments. “More importantly, for girls like me, we won't have to wait in a queue for two hours to guard our place because the evening time is when we have to finish our homework.”

However, in Jan, due to sudden fire outage the project suffered a setback, as many of the laptops and mobiles were damaged. But as it says- Where there is a will, there is a way, and so a crowdfunding campaign was initiated with hope to get more computers and laptops. If you are interested in contributing, please check the details here.

The determination, focus and passion for solving a problem have made this a reality, that teenagers living in tough conditions in Dharavi are finding ways to solve their problem. A lesson to be learned by many of us. Isnt it?

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Samiksha Seth
Samiksha Seth is a day dreamer by choice,an avid blogger, Reiki practitioner,firm believer of "Keep Faith", loves exploring and crafting experiences into words. She is a mother of a toddler and has resigned from her full time IT job, just to be with her child and take up her passion for writing.

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