Since 1993, we have worked with the local Pune community to create opportunities for young women and girls to break the cycle of poverty.



As roommates in an MSW program, Minal Dani and Shyama Nair often found themselves discussing the challenges facing women and girls in India. Wife-beating, dowry deaths, harassment, teen marriage, poor access to education – the problems were many. They felt passionately about the need for change in womens’ rights in India. Following graduation, Minal married and had children, and Shyama began her own business – life pulling each of them away from social work for a period. In 1993, however, the two women found themselves back in Pune and both at a point in life where they were able to commit the time and resources to seeing their passion through. Along with seven other motivated, professional women in the community, Minal and Shyama officially began the work of ASHA. 

ASHA’s founding mission was to bring awareness of rights through guest speakers and written information to women living in the community and local slums. The community responded positively, but also shared that their greatest challenge was getting the help they needed at the Police Station. Cases were often dismissed as “private family disputes,” leaving the women without help and often in a more precarious situation than when they started. ASHA approached the Police Station and made their case for opening an in-station office where women could come for assistance and support in domestic violence cases. The office would assist women with all issues associated with domestic violence: legal, medical, psychological, outside agency referrals, safety in retrieving belongings, creating trust in police assistance, etc. Following ASHA’s proposal to the Chief of Police, he asked why he should allow a fledgling organization to start such a program when many schools of SW have asked to do the same. Ms. Dani provided three reasons in response: “We are not political, we are not religious, and we are not seeking media attention. We are action-oriented and that is it.” Much to her surprise, he agreed. Since that time, hundreds of women have benefited from the Crisis Intervention Cell, ASHA’s first of six successful programs. 


“When a woman is battered and bruised, and thrown out of her home without any belongings or children, and comes to us for help, we want her to understand the whole process and then make decisions for herself. There can be decisions which can give her instant relief versus decisions which can help her in the long run. Our job is to empower the woman and encourage her to make the long-term decisions.”
— Minal Dani, Co-Founder of ASHA

What We've Achieved

  • Since its inception, ASHA has helped over 5,000 women and 1,500 girls to empower themselves.
  • ASHA has successfully provided access to post-secondary education for 38 young women.
  • Since 2008, ASHA has been recognized as a Service Provider under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act by the State Department of Women & Child Welfare.
  • ASHA provided psychological assistance and treatment to 600 people from two villages in Tamil Nadu following the 2005 tsunami disaster.