The Countess of Wessex has started her 3rd day of visit to India at the permanent 26/11 memorial at the iconic Taj Mahal Palace & Tower lobby. The memorial has the names of the thirty one fallen inscribed as a permanent homage to those brave and innocent people.
The 2008 Mumbai attacks (also referred to as 26/11) were a group of terrorist attacks that took place in November 2008, when 10 members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamic terrorist organisation based in Pakistan, carried out a series of 12 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks lasting four days across Mumbai.
Taj Mahal Palace Hotel was specifically chosen by Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terror group who attacked multiple targets, for an attack so that it will be “striking a blow against a symbol of Indian wealth and progress”. The Countess laid a wreath with personal message at the Memorial to remember the victims of Mumbai terror attacks.
Later, on day three of her tour of India to see the work of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex saw how two Queen’s Young Leaders are transforming women’s health across the country.
First, HRH visited Sassoon Dock fish market with OSCAR Foundation co-founder, Ashok Shankar Rathod. Many of the families of young boys and girls supported by the Foundation work here in very challenging circumstances. The foundation is working to give them better opportunities.
OSCAR Foundation (Organization for Social Change, Awareness and Responsibility) is a non-profit organisation that, through football instils the value of education and empowers underprivileged children and youth with life skills to take responsibility of their community development.
Ashok Shankar Rathod along with two other founding members started the OSCAR Foundation in 2006. OSCAR runs a unique programme that not only teaches the sport to children and youth but also helps them to understand the value of education.
Then, Sophie visited The Oscar Foundation in the Ambedkar Nagar Community. At the Foundation’s computer centre in the Community HRH was reunited with some of the girls she first met when she hosted them at the Windsor Castle during their #Kicklikeagirl UK tour last year.
Next, The Countess visited a Sir Elly Kadoorie School where Sophie met Queen’s Young Leader, Deane de Menezes, whose project ‘Red is the new Green’ aims to destigmatise menstruation, improve access to menstrual hygiene and ultimately prevent female absenteeism in schools.
In India, it is estimated that over 23 million girls each year drop out of school early due to lack of menstrual hygiene facilities and the stigma surrounding menstruation. Sir Elly Kadoorie School is one of 30 locations where Deane is working.
There, The Countess met girls and their mothers who have benefited from awareness raising sessions that Deane’s organisation provides and was shown the low-cost sanitary towel vending machines and incinerators which have helped to bring about a reduction in female absenteeism.
The Countess was also presented with a period pouch which are given to girls at her training sessions to provide them with somewhere clean and safe to keep their pads.
The Countess then visited Apnalaya health centre. Apnalaya, (Our Space in English), is a non-profit organization, founded in 1973 by Tom Holland. There Sophie met Queen’s Young Leader Aditya Kulkarni whose pioneering ‘Care Mother’ antenatal app has helped to reduce maternal and child mortality rates in India.
On a walk to his clinic through one of the largest slums in India, Aditya told The Countess about his project. Globally, around 800 women die every day of preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, and 20 per cent of these cases are in India.
Aditya co-created “CareMother”, a mobile and online platform which enables health workers to provide pregnant women who would otherwise not have been reached with antenatal check-ups at their homes.
The Countess met health workers and mothers, and heard how the app has helped women from disadvantaged communities in India access antenatal care. Within the last two years, Aditya and his team have provided affordable care to more than 30,000 pregnant women in over 800 villages in India, Bangladesh and Kenya.
At the Centre, The Countess spoke with health workers who use CareMother daily to monitor the health of expectant mothers, as well as women who have used the app to monitor their pregnancy.
Apnalaya works with the most marginalized people living in highly under-served slums of Mumbai. The infant mortality rate in the area is 55, while the national rate is 41. Every second child is underweight. 88% of pregnant women in 2015-16 were anaemic. 53% girls do not have more than eight years of education.
68% of the families in the area buy drinking water. Only 13.7% females and 54.6% males are employed with majority working as casual labour. The average monthly income of a family is INR 7,802, i.e., about US$ 121 (From Life on the Margin: Charting Realities, Apnalaya Studies, Series I).
For press release about Sophie’s Day 3 of visit to India by Diamond Jubilee Trust click here, for quite detailed Daily Mail’s coverage click here. I will correct the order of visits after CC will become available. I’m working with very limited information.