Nothing could stop Shraddha from chasing her dreams!
Shraddha Shinde is a young woman filled with talent and a drive to succeed. But her life had not always been easy.
Her father passed away when she was in school. He had been the sole breadwinner of the family and his untimely death left the family in a bad situation. Her brother began to work to support the family.
The money that came in was still not enough so her mother began to work as well. She took on stitching jobs during the day but she could not work too long as she had spondylitis. Shraddha’s dreams of becoming an engineer were beginning to fade as her family did not even have enough money to get through a day.
Akshara Center discovered Shraddha and decided to help her pursue her dreams. They provided her with financial help to pay for a course in Electronics and Telecommunication. Through her college days, she went to workshops held by Akshara to build confidence, life skills and interpersonal skills. Upon graduation, she got a job as a trainee engineer with an international corporation!
Young girls like Shraddha are just ones step away from their dreams. All they need is a helping hand to do what they’ve set their hearts and minds on.
You could donate to give girls like Shraddha a chance to study further after school. Your help could make the difference of turning years of education into a career for them. You can give with confidence because every program on our platform is GIVEASSURED.
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What the beneficiary gets
Akshara Centre's 'Empowering Dreams' is a scholarship program for girls in the age group of 16 to 21 years, pursuing higher education. These girls are predominantly from 'single female head families' based out of underprivileged communities in 2 of Mumbai's low-cost housing municipal wards.
Applications are invited from such girls, following which aspiration levels and desire to pursue higher education are assessed via interviews with the applicants. The selected girls are then enrolled in the Life Skills Workshop, where they work towards developing their confidence and interpersonal skills. All the candidates undergo an evaluation at the start and end of the program in order to quantify shift in their life perspectives.
The girls are urged to open bank accounts to deposit their grants, in order to encourage accountability. The program is extensively publicized to ensure it reaches its desired demographic.
6 January, 2023
Sponsor Higher Education and Skill Training for a Girl Child
Activities and work undertaken in the last 5-6 months
Empowering Dream Programme – January 2022- June 2022
Akshara’s Empowering Dream Programme is supporting young college going girls coming from underprivileged family backgrounds to complete their education and build their life skills and job skills through a three-year training programme. We also provide them scholarship to support their education financially. This training programme includes various kinds of workshops, events, exposure visits and community activities along with one-to-one interaction, mentoring and counselling for the girls.
Training Programs EDP programme is ideally for three years and every year the participant gets evaluated based on her participation and performance she gets promoted. Saksham: The first-year programme (When a girl enrolls for the first time) which is called Saksham aims to build the perspective of the girls towards gender equality and to help them to understand their strengths and weaknesses. Swayamsidha: The selected girls from Saksham will continue next year with the Swayamsiddha programme which aims to build their employable skills and to educate them more about gender and violence as a complex phenomenon and how they build strategies to fight against it for themselves and others around them. Swadhin: Then the potential leaders are selected, and they get a chance to continue with the EDP programme which is called the Swadhin programme. This group gets more exposure through visits and advance level of employability training programmes, mentoring, continues individual support through Information and Placement Hub. Milestone Achieved: The cohort of 262 young women who had applied to join the 3 courses were taken on a capacity development journey. Two workshops and one event oriented 426 new and senior girls on the Akshara program. Skill based Workshops: Eleven job readiness workshops were attended 726 girls. 3 online workshops on 21st Century skills, self-learning and career decisions were attended by 184 young women. Job Readiness Workshops: 30 girls had their CVs revised. A Whats App group of 125 was formed for sharing info on jobs. They received a series of 180 messages. Gender Awareness Workshops: Five workshops on Being a Woman, Violence against Women, Health and Wellness, and Negotiations with Family and Friends were attended by 428 girls. Change makers Workshops: are meant to encourage senior girls to take on community work. 58 girls felt confident enough to hold film screenings in their bastis, some distributed free sanitary napkins, and others took the new girls on an exposure visit to a bank. Programme Planning and Designing In the beginning of the year programme team attended trainings and sessions on concepts like Inclusivity to brush up their skills and knowledge. They have also conducted various meetings to discuss the changes in modules and structure of the programme. Programme team reworked the concept notes and modules based on the reflections from last years. It is also due to the transformation from online to offline these reworks were required. Major Events: We felicitated the last years students and promoted the active Saksham girls (based on their performance and attendance) to the Swayamsidha programme 2022-23 during the month of April and May and started their Swayamsidha training programme, similarly with Swayamsidha group we organised meetings and promoted those who are interested and those who are continuing their higher education to Swadhin programme 2022-23. We have initiated the process of scholarship.
Areas Covered: In the current year we are working with girls from Mumbai and suburban areas Total number of beneficiaries: 300 Indirect Outreach of EDP in 2022 :over 20,000nos
Programme Planning and Designing In the beginning of the year programme team attended trainings and sessions on concepts like Inclusivity to brush up their skills and knowledge. They have also conducted various meetings to discuss the changes in modules and structure of the programme. Programme team reworked the concept notes and modules based on the reflections from last years. It is also due to the transformation from online to offline these reworks were required. Publicity and Outreach of the programme We have organised community meetings in various communities in the beginning of this year to build better rapport with girls and their parents and to understand their problems which helps us to design the workshops based on the felt needs of girls. Due to our constant interaction with them in the form of community visits, community activities like Bank visits, police station visit and awareness programs more senior girls could actively take part in the publicity and mobilisation for EDP programme and we have received more than 500 applications this year. Our senior girls referred around half of these new girls from their area. We have selected around 300 students for this year’s Empowering Dream Programme (EDP) by scrutinizing their application and interviewing them. We select girls coming from economically weaker sections and give preference to girls coming from minority communities, SC, ST and NT communities. We also give preference to girls who are from women headed households.
Exposure Visit to Factory: We organised exposure visits to girls who are in final year and second year of their graduation. This visit also aimed at introducing the idea of entrepreneurship
“I always used to be afraid of people in authority, especially police officers. It was due to the community activity that I have initiated I went to talk to Nirbhaya Squad in the police station in my locality and later took other girls from my area to the police station to interact with the police. This activity helped all of us to understand about the support that women get from the police and how to approach police station. We have learnt that we need to report each and every crime even if it is a petty crime. I also felt that police officers are friendly and they talk to us respectfully unlike what I have imagined. This activity has increased my confidence a lot ”Rukaiya Quereshi shared after police station visit.
Khula Asman: Our senior girls from Swayamsidha and Swadhin group took charge of welcoming the new girls to EDP programme. T
Violence Intervention: This workshop aimed to create awareness about the laws and policies to protect women from violence within the house and outside and to help the girls to develop their own strategies against violence.
Negotiation with Partner and Friends: To discuss about intimate partner violence and how to negotiate with their partners and male friends and how to be safe and comfortable in any relationship they engage. “Since we are girls we usually don’t have actual best friend. People say girls can’t keep secrets. In my case I am afraid to share anything with some friend I don’t know if they use it against me or share it with someone else.” Pratishta Singh
Challenges faced and next steps
Challenge of mobilizing girls for offline sessions & dealing with parent’s concerns One major challenge that we faced in the beginning of the year was the online to offline transition of work. Girls never travelled to this far since they have been attending online class during their ‘junior college’ (11th& 12th) so they have started feeling a bit difficulty in travelling. Parents were also feeling a bit uncomfortable to send them away from home while many colleges were continuing online classes. At the same time, we need to remove their fear of travelling and fear of being alone. We constantly encouraged them to travel and organised some of the sessions online. Girls were also feeling difficulty to get permissions every time. We started clubbing two workshops, instead of a half day workshop.We have tackled this problem by collaborating with various CBOs and NGOs working in the grassroots.
Addressing Violence When the parents and girls shared about the incidents of violence like sexual harassment in the communities when girls go out, we came up with the idea of building girls support group in the communities.
Our goal for next 6 month We have built a good base for the senior girls and now it is their time to show up their leadership skills as well as employable skills. They can use the platform to develop their own support group. We have also prepared modules and collaborated with various organisations to organise more workshops for both new group and the senior girls on perspective and skill building.
We are also planning to take them for exposure visits. We are also encouraging senior girls to take up internship opportunities or part time jobs. We are planning to give scholarships to all the selected and eligible girls to support their education. We have planned to support all the 315 girls who applied for the education support this year.
Stories from the ground
Disha’s journey: from being a silent person to an active leader Disha Sandge lives in Mahalaxmi along with her family which consists of her father, mother, and a younger sister. Her father is a local distributor of newspaper who has a roadside stall, and her mother is home maker. Her mother has health issues which also affects her mood and overall mental health due to some hormonal imbalance. This affects the atmosphere at home and Disha and her sister get affected by these sudden mood changes and aggression that her mother shows. Disha hopes that once she completes her course and if she gets a job, she can take care of many things at home and support her sister who is also studying. Disha is currently pursuing her graduation in Radiology (Bvoc Radiology – MIT) from Paramedical Institute of Education and Research. This course is private, and it costs her a lot, she must pay 75,000 per year. It is difficult for her father to manage the college fee, house expenses and her mother’s health expenses alone. Disha takes tuition at home for school students since she is good with Maths and Science. She also works at a private tuition centre part time manage the huge expenses. She says Akshara’s support through scholarship and Skill building is a huge help for her.
“I am an introvert. I used to always think what the other person thinks if I say thins/ if I ask this. May be this is because of the atmosphere at my home. My mother always scolds us, we don’t know if she likes something if we say it or not. After attending so many sessions in last year and this year my confidence has increased. I like to come here and listen o everyone. This gives me a chance to express myself without fearing about judgement. Initially I used to only attend the sessions, I used to not talk much. But later I started sharing and participating in these activities. I think this has given me a good exposure and now I also talk to others in my college, and I try to communicate and to involve in various activities in college and in my community.”
Shivani Mishra feels Akshara is her to ‘go to place’ Shivani is 18 years old and is a talented girl who loves to dance and play games with her friends in the community. She always felt that education has been a priority in her life. She fights every day to achieve her dream of becoming a graduate coming from a family in which she is the first-generation learner. She lives with her father, mother, and brother at Andheri. She was finding it difficult to pay her course fees because her father is a daily wage earner who is working as a rickshaw driver. They do not own a house; they must pay for the rent of their chawl and source for her brother's school education.
One day one girl from the community where she resides introduced Akshara to help her financially. She connected with Akshara by explaining the financial difficulties that she could not afford to pay the course fees.
“It was a great relief for me to get the scholarship from Akshara. I could pay my fee in time and now I feel more confident that I can complete my graduation without worrying about my fee and I don’t have to ask my father who is already struggling hard to meet the ends.”
She loves coming to Akshara centre as she gains a lot in her personal life by attending the life skill sessions organised by us. She has developed social and emotional skills by interacting with her peers and building friendships. She was happy that Akshara had conducted a session on workplace etiquettes, and it also gave her confidence to apply for a job in future. She always felt Akshara was like a second home as there are a lot of opportunities to grow and develop skills in their life and feel empowered in achieving their dreams through higher education.
…………………………………………………. Hina became more confident after attending the workshop Hina is 22 years old and pursuing her final year in B.Com. Her family consists of father, mother, grandparents and five siblings which makes up a total 10 members in the family. They stay in a chawl which is on rent basis. Her father works in a factory and mother is a homemaker. She faces a lot of financial challenges as her father is working in a factory with a wage of below 10,000 in which he finds it too difficult to feed his family and provide basic facilities and He is the only breadwinner in the family. Her father finds it very difficult to give education to Hina. She came across Akshara from her college friends in 2021. She has always been thankful to Akshara for giving her the scholarship to complete her course. The experience of being at Akshara has always been great and she could grow as a person.
“The organisation empowered me to understand the importance of education and be financially independent in future. The sessions conducted in Akshara help in our professional and personal development.”
Earlier she had faced issues with socialising with peers but after attending sessions it helped her to improve social and communication skills. She has gained confidence in visiting the public support systems whenever required.
3 June, 2022
Sponsor Higher Education and Skill Training for a Girl Child
Activities and work undertaken in the last 5-6 months
In 2021 we had focused on restructuring the Empowering Dream Program. We designed it as a certificate training program for the young college-going girls named Saksham, Swayamsidha, and Swadhin for newly joined girls, second-year girls, and senior girls, respectively. Young women from marginalized socio-economic backgrounds can join the program, and we support their education by providing them scholarships to continue their higher education. Along with the scholarship, they will also be completing a one-year certificate training program on leadership and skill-building. We have reworked our existing modules and prepared some new modules for the 'online' mode of workshops, which we have adapted due to the covid19 induced pandemic situation.
This program is ideal for three years, and every year the participant gets evaluated based on her participation and performance, she gets promoted.
Saksham: The first-year program (When a girl enrolls for the first time), Saksham, aims to build the girls' perspective towards gender equality and help them understand their strengths and weaknesses.
Swayamsidha: The selected girls from Saksham will continue next year with the Swayamsiddha program, which aims to build their employable skills and educate them more about gender and violence as a complex phenomenon and how they make strategies to fight against it for themselves and others around them.
Swadhin: Then the potential leaders are selected, and they get a chance to continue with the EDP program, which is called the Swadhin program. This group gets more exposure through visits and advanced employability training programs, mentoring, continuous individual support through Information and Placement Hub.
Selection Process and Scholarship of the girls
We choose young girls from Mumbai with a preference for marginalized social backgrounds, such as children from single-parent families girls from SC, ST, NT, and minority communities. The amount of the scholarship is determined by the number of workshops attended by the girls and the number of community activities they initiate and participate in. We collect documents such as a photo, signature, college fee receipt, passbook copy before processing the scholarship—155 girls in Saksham, 75 in Swayamsidha, and 40 in Swadhin, respectively. We provide them scholarships based on their attendance and performance.
Areas Covered: We are working with girls from Mumbai and suburban areas in the current year.
Total number of beneficiaries: 270
Indirect Outreach of EDP in 2021: over 20,000 nos
This year's Khula asman event was a hybrid event with offline and online activities. Kulsum Shaikh, a football coach from Parcham, and two of our Alumni girls who took nontraditional career pathways shared their stories of 'fighting with the odds' and enjoying their 'dream career' with more than 150 girls who joined for the event.
We have also organized various workshops on Perspective and Skill-building. The workshops organized on Gender include sessions on basic gender understanding, negotiation skills with family girls, health, menstruation& hygiene. And a session on Gender-based violence for Saksham girls and a Session on 'Why do women have to work' and Negotiation with partners and male friends etc.
Skill Building Akshara has collaborated with Quest Alliance to conduct four sessions on employable skills. We organized interactive sessions for the young girls on various topics related to employability and skill-building, including workshops on 21st-century skills & Factors for Career Decision, Changing the World of Work, and Workplace Etiquettes and Skills. We have also organized a session on 'email and WhatsApp' communication to discuss how to communicate through electronic mediums informal way. A workshop on goal setting was conducted at the beginning of the academic year for the Saksham girls. The importance of having career goals, planning and prioritizing, and time management are discussed with girls. Gender socialization has affected the girls' communication skills, so we have organized workshops to improve their verbal and non-verbal skills. We have also supported computer training by collaborating 'Click Point' computer center and encouraged girls to improve their Spoken English by joining hands with the British Council Library completed certificate course. Impacts While looking at the takeaways for the workshops on Gender, the girls provided a varied range of responses, but the most common response (87.9%) encompassed the idea that both men and women should be treated equally in all spheres of life. The girls also talked about the importance of self-care, gender equality, moving beyond the binaries of Gender as the key learnings from the workshops. When asked if their views on health or beauty had changed due to attending the workshop, among the responses were: "After this workshop, I believe that beauty is natural and comes from within, rather than from makeup, hairstyles, or branded clothing." "I've learned not to compare the beauty of others to my own. Each is lovely in its way. Girls have been living in oppressed conditions for so long, and it is challenging for them to find out their own 'voice.' After the workshop on financial independence, we have asked the senior girls to interview two working as well as non-working women in their community to understand more about the issue. All (100%) of them shared that they have observed that working women are more confident than non-working women. When asked about who is taking in family decision-making, most of them shared their observation that (81%) working women get a chance in family decision-making more effectively than non-working women. When asked who is more independent, they all observed that the working women are separate. "It was excruciating for hearing stories of non-working women how they feel bad being a burden on their family and on the other hand felt confident when heard stories of working women"-Nidhi Agrahari. Many girls shared their experiences of violence, especially the incidents of sexual harassment at public places and how they survived it and developed strategies later. When asked what they learned from the workshop, most girls said they learned about violence. It is different types, the life cycle of violence, how to deal with it, and how not to ignore violence and take a stand against it. After attending Skill-building sessions, the girls said they learned how to set and plan goals, the importance of goals and careers, make career decisions, and distinguish between ability and interest. They have also known how to prepare CVs for jobs and attend Interviews. Around 30 girls have already prepared CVs from the senior group and started searching for jobs. A question about clarity on career goals was asked after the workshop on 'Setting goals for yourself to girls which the overwhelming majority of girls responded positively. The girls were asked to describe their short-term goals. Many girls mentioned that they want an excellent job in well-known companies, some of them want to learn different things like (guitar, dance, etc.), others want to get good grades and graduate. Girls were also asked to talk about their long-term ambitions. The majority (65.4%) of the girls expressed interest in either purchasing their own home or starting their own business. In the verbal communication workshop, girls were assisted in expressing themselves and improving their communication abilities. The other focused mainly on email writing and communication through social media like WhatsApp. After the session on Communication skills, many girls responded that the session helped them gain self-confidence and speak their thoughts out. "The most important thing I learned was how to represent myself in the office and how to converse with them respectfully."
Challenges faced and next steps
The Covid 19 pandemic affected people and working spaces badly worldwide. It is no different for us. Pandemic has affected the communities that we are working with very severely. Most of the girls' parents were already supporting themselves, and their families on meager wages before coronavirus-mitigation lockdowns sent unemployment rates skyrocketing and millions of jobs disappeared. Our girls and their mothers were already shouldering most family caregiving responsibilities. Still, it has increased tremendously post covid-19 because the younger children are at home since the nurseries and schools are also shut down. Approximately 60% of them live in rented housing. During the pandemic, 90% of the girl's family income was halted. Many parents lost their jobs, and many families survived by borrowing money from relatives and money lenders. The girls stated that there was no ration in the house. During the Second lockdown, most of our girls faced many financial issues since their parents, daily wage earners, or street vendors lost their income. We supported around 150 senior girls by distributing ration kits containing groceries for two months. We organized this distribution in different parts of Mumbai. Since the situation has changed, the girls' priorities are also changed. They now have to manage their family, younger siblings and their education, household chores, and some are even the sole breadwinners of their families. So it was challenging to focus on attending workshops and activities. They were also facing a lot of stress and anxiety because of the unpredictable situation. We started the years' program with two sessions on mental health, including a stress management session and workshop on resilience. We have also extended our support to girls by providing them opportunities to talk to us, and referral service is provided for the neediest girls.
Ensuring girls' participation was a challenge but we constantly researched and updated ourselves with new techniques to involve girls in online workshops (like introducing Mentimeter, padlet, poll questions, and apps like fortune wheel) and engaging content. We have also developed a system that continuously evaluates them by submitting various offline activities and assignments that they can take up. We also did regular telephonic follows up with them and checked their attendance.
Building leadership and a sense of collective consciousness have been consistently one of the aims of Empowering dream program. It was challenging to bring a 'we' feeling among them since the workshops and events have not provided them a space to interact with each other, which gives them the effect of a 'group therapy.' So we have organized area meetings in different places in their communities by dividing them into various zones. After forming these groups' girls also organized community-level activities in some of these areas, and more activities were planned later. The senior group around the initiative led the 'Bank Visit' movement. Many girls shared that these activities helped develop leadership, communication, and teamwork skills. They have also developed a good rapport with each other by working together. While working with the girls, we have realized the 'digital divide' they have been facing, along with the gender and class divide. Many of them do not own their smartphone, which affects their attendance in college and Akshara. We have successfully managed to mobilize some resources and donated Smartphones. Plan for next six months • Continue supporting all the 270 girls and help them complete their education. • Continue supporting the girls to build their skills and help the final year students with exposure visits and career guidance • Conduct advanced level workshops to improve their knowledge and leadership • Encourage girls to do more activities in their communities and support their community-level events. • Analyse the data and prepare a report, complete all the documentation process, and plan for next year's activities. • Prepare modules for the rest of the workshops (for seniors and Saksham) • Select girls for next year's Swayamsidha and Swadhin program based on the current year's performance
Stories from the ground
Learned to fight – Samreen’s story Samreen Shaikh is one of the Saksham girls who joined Akshara this year. She lives in Baigonwadi, Govandi, with her parents and siblings. She is doing BMS from Ambedkar college. Her father is a hawker who sells Agarbatis for a living, and he is the sole breadwinner of the family. Samreen says they live in extreme poverty, her brothers cannot find a job, and both her sisters and Samreen struggle to pay college fees. “Akshara supported us during the pandemic, and I could continue my studies with the help of the scholarship. There was also a community meeting in our area, and my parents appreciated Akshara’s efforts. So I could negotiate with them about coming to Akshara and attending Akshara’s workshops. There are many restrictions on us. But I have started negotiating for myself and my sisters. The most important change that I have observed in me is that I have started fighting hard for myself, and I learned it from the workshops.” She dreams of becoming a financially independent woman, and she feels that she has to fight for her rights and others.
Earning mother’s trust – Swati’s story Swati Random Patwa is one of our senior girls, and she is doing her master’s course now. Along with that, she is also preparing for her final exam on CMA (Cost managing Accountant) She lives with her father, a laborer who makes artificial jewelry pieces on order, and her mother and a younger brother who is also a college student. They live in Sion. Her sister got married at a young age, and her parents, significantly her mother, always believed that girls should be married off early. There was massive pressure on Swati to get married after she completed her graduation. She has negotiated with her mother, and Akshara helped her do so. According to Swati, her mother also attended most of the workshops during the pandemic since the workshops are online, and she has changed a lot. Her mother used not to give her permission to leave home, but she has allowed her to go for a two-day trip to Aurangabad as part of her internship for CMA. Swati was surprised when her mother agreed to the trip when she asked for permission. She said that they had faced many financial issues during the lockdown and the ration and other financial support from Akshara helped her and her family manage. “I am sure that anything happens in your life, Akshara will always be there. Akshara is a safe space, and you have become a bold girl who can manage anything.” She quoted her mother.
4 October, 2021
Sponsor Higher Education and Skill Training for a Girl Child
Activities and work undertaken in the last 5-6 months
We celebrated New Year and Savitribai Jayanti. We created a virtual space which was an open session for sharing inspiring stories of bouncing back after living in a pandemic hit world. The girls shared their experiences, thoughts and ideas and inspired each other by sharing some positive stories which they see around them. Around 100 young girls participated in this event on the zoom. What’s on your thali today ; A discussion on Connecting with Nature : We organized a webinar in the context of International Women’s Day & 125 people took part. By joining hands with One Billion Rising we introduced the concept of ‘rising gardens, Women and her connection with nature’ Employability Skill Training: We have collaborated with ‘Quest Alliance’ and they are facilitating the training on employable skills for last few years to conduct the workshops on skill training. In the month of January we have organized a workshop on ‘Being the Best in the world ; How to navigate your career Pathway’ for our senior batch of girls and 41 girls attended this session and learnt about planning their career pathway.HaqKartavya ; A discussion on Rights and Duties : We celebrated the Republic Day of our nation along with the young students. around 275 young people attended this event and became more aware about the Rights and duties of young people. Celebrated Valentine’s Day; ‘Let me Love: A discussion on Love and Choosing our partners : We have organized a discussion on Love and choosing our partners with alumni of Akshara and others associated with us over the years. around 94 young women and men participated in this event.Achievements Ration distribution: During the second lockdown most of girls and their families were facing severe financial issues and the Covid-Pandemic induced lockdown and restrictions affected their livelihood and income very deeply and the impact of the damage created is long term. We realized that providing them ration kits for two months to survive the lock down is necessary. We directly distributed ration to 142 young women who are part of EDP programme from areas like:Churchgate, Dadar,Parel,Khatkopar, Chembur. Bandra, Andheri and Jogeshwari. Mentoring for Young girls: We provided young professional volunteers who mentor our girls to help them to build job skills and to develop their soft skills. Mentoring has scaled up and in 2020-21 programme year and 111 girls were mentored by 107 mentors. Mentoring was completely online this year and this helped the girls to manage their schedules to meet their mentors and they did not face mobility restrictions to meet their mentors. Worshops on Mental Health: We have conducted workshop on mental health ‘Creative ways of stress management’ and ‘Building resilience’ in June. We have collaborated with Mpower and their team conducted three workshops on mental health on different days. There were 50 to 65 participants in each of these workshops.
Challenges faced and next steps
Covid -19 has created a lot of challenges to all of us and every organization but also forced us to build strategies to work during the pandemic. Even though the girls were facing immense stress and anxiety we tried to keep them engaged by organising all the workshops and additional events online. We also had to support them whenever they are feeling low. We have provided professional mental health support by joining hands with a Psychiatrist but most of the girls preferred to talk to the team members rather than a professional. We had to dedicate a lot of time to listen to them over phone.One of the challenge was organizing workshops and events during the Covid 19 situations. But we could adapt easily to the neo normal situation and organized all the events and workshops online. We supported the neediest girls to recharge their data plan so that they will be able to attend our events as well as college lectures. We had to rework on our modules which are usually for the full day and to restrict it into small session of one and a half hours. We have created effective modules for all the workshops that we generally organize. We usually support girls with internship and placement opportunities and help them to get jobs. This year due to the pandemic getting those jobs and internships was a challenge. We are helping them to improve their skills and provided continues support to develop employable skills. We helped them to create their CVs and to find out jobs. We have created a WhatsApp group called Information & placement Hub and there are 115 girls in the group. We have shared jobs/ interships related posts regularly in the group. There are 5 girls who have managed to do their internships and 6 girls got jobs during this period. Our Plan for next 6 months Our plan is to reach up to 200 beneficiaries in next 6 months and to organize workshops, events and activities to develop their skills as well as gender understanding. We will be supporting these girls to enroll and take admission in colleges / continue their higher education by providing financial support. We have added few more workshops and activities as per the felt need and suggestions from the girls and we will be preparing modules for the same too.
Stories from the ground
Kajol Jha , A living example of neglected girl child Kajol lives with her grandmother and is finishing her higher secondary from D G Ruparel College in the science stream. She is quite admirable and strong-willed for her age. Her parents left her with her grandmother when she was a year old and moved to Delhi with her two brothers. They did not want to carry the burden of having a girl with them and have not tried to contact her. Ever since then, she has lived with her grandmother, uncle and aunt who take care of her and are close to her. She was a part of another organisation where the social worker suggested she join Akshara’s scholarship program.Her uncle used to work in a private bank and lost his job due to the pandemic. Most of the private sector organisations were laying off their employees throughout the year. He has been looking for another job. Her aunt used to work in a company and she too lost her job since the organisation was unable to pay her salary when the production was affected. The lockdown has been hard on them. Being part of Akshara has helped her to continue her education through the scholarship support. Her interests lie in working in the domain of gender as she feels she understands gender issues on a personal level.“There are some other girls in my group who are from the organisation I was a part of. I spoke to them about what I have been learning from the EDP Saksham programme. There is one girl who is elder to me. I told her how we can be change makers too if we raise our voice against injustice. I am interested in taking up any activity that will help my community.”She shows a keen interest in all the workshops and discussions. She feels the pace set for learning is correct. She further added,“I have never felt comfortable sharing my thoughts with others, but Akshara created a safe and comfortable space for me. I learnt to frame my thoughts and put them in the right words during these interactions. I will continue with Akshara and I am looking forward to joining next year’s programme.”Story of Prachi Gupta, Who improved her skills and changed her perspectives Prachi Gupta is from Vile Parle. Her father is a street vendor who buys vegetables from the Dadar market and sells them at Mira Road. This entire year has been difficult for them because of the pandemic and the lockdown restrictions due to which, his small business was affected. Her mother is a homemaker and her brother is studying in 10th standard. Prachi is a first-year student of L S Raheja College of Arts & Commerce, Santacruz and is pursuing a B.Com degree.She has attended most of the workshops and liked the ‘Gender’ workshop. Within the workshop, the activity where they had to share a picture of a girl breaking gender norms struck a chord with her. According to her, girls lack the proper career guidance and take up an Arts or Commerce line because they are unaware of the other stream options that exist. They are not guided properly by the people whom they ask for advice. Joining Akshara has changed her thought process and the way she responds to situations. She feels the girls have gained confidence through this platform to speak up and her communication skills have seen an improvement. She mentioned, “Mentoring was also something where I got to learn and improve. My mentor guided me well and helped me learn time management and to focus more on my goals.” She shared an incident about her response to people who persuaded her on marriage by telling them that women cannot depend on their husbands and in-laws their whole life. If women got the chance to study and earn from a decent job, she, like the others, would focus on that than marriage. Organisations like Akshara create a unique platform for girls to develop themselves. She describes Akshara with words of freedom, openness, and space to converse where perspectives of girls evolve.
23 March, 2021
The covid 19 pandemic and the immediate lock down affected the girls in multiple ways. They were hit so badly because most of them are children of daily wage earners who are working as street venders, hawkers or laborers. They all lost their livelihood and some of their families got infected with Covid 19 also. Other than the financial issues there were many other problems that they have been facing like violence and pressure of marriage, drop out issues due to lack of income and lack of facilities like phone and internet to work from home or to find out such jobs or to actively participate in their college lectures, problems with coping up with stress and anxiety etc were some of them.
Scholarship Support & Selection of girls : This year we have selected around 170 girls for scholarship for 2020-21 academic year based on the following criteria.
• Her family monthly income should be 20,000 or below.
• She should be a college going student.
• Preference is given to children of single mothers, socially backward categories and girls from minority communities.
Also Akshara has made a change in the programme by introducing a six month certificate course on life skill and perspective building for newly enrolling girls and it is named as ‘Saksham Leadership training Programme’.
Mental Health support and Awareness : We identified the stress and anxiety of our girls has increased during lock down and helped them with psychological support, counseling facility.
We have also realized that they are facing a lot of hygiene issues during the pandemic and to address this we have organized a workshop on ‘Menstruation, health and hygiene’ .
Conducted serried of Workshops on Life- skills. Few are mentioned here:
Why do we fear Violence: Focused on What is gender based violence and why it occurs and how can one prevent violence or stop being a victim of it.
‘What is my gender? A girl , A Boy or A person’:This workshop discussed more about gender and gender discrimination that exist in the society.
‘Are you a change maker : We introduced the idea of leadership, decision making and taking initiatives to change few issues that they have identified in their community.
Perspective building and Employable Skills for Senior Girls : Senior girls are looking forward to complete their graduation and get a job as soon as possible. Hence we have conducted series of workshops on Employability related skills development.
5 July, 2020
Girls learn leadership skills and build confidence
Girls learn leadership skills and build confidence
This entire year consisted of various activities where many of our girls took part in confidence building, learning leadership goals and indulging in non traditional careers stepping away from the limitations imposed by gender. Some of these activities are listed as follows :-
Workplace Readiness: This workshop was conducted to equip girls in
understanding - Self to make well informed career decisions. It Enabled
them to become Self- Learners to thrive successfully in the 21st century
emerging trends. It helped them create SMART career goals for themselves and
understand critical life skills such as Decision making, Conflict resolution and
Effective communication to foster positive relationships personally professionally.
Non Traditional Workshop: Majority of careers are Male dominated and
women have very limited source of livelihood which are home science,
cooking, tailoring etc. In this workshop, women who have broken the
barriers and created a space for them in the male dominated careers were
spoken about. For e.g.: Geeta Phogat (Wrestler), Veena Patil (Owner of
Veena World- tour and travel etc. The girls were also encouraged to take up careers often branded as only often men such as engineers, pilots, film makers etc.
Akshara centre collaborated with ISDI School of innovation and Design for
a Mentoring program where few of our selected girls were mentored in
Planning, confidence building, setting their goals for the future, improving their
communication skills to be able to present power point presentations in front of their classmates, college and other people. It helped them to believe in themselves and present with confidence.
Chai Ki Tapri Campaign: There are many places in public where
predominantly males are found, and to break this barrier and reclaim public
spaces, girls did a campaign called Chai ki tapri where in groups they
visited 3-4 chai ki tapris, had tea, discussed with the tapriwala regarding
the lesser number of women coming and drinking tea and how can the
barriers be broken and women also can come and drink tea. Questions of mobility, restrictions and freedom were discussed later as the girls shared their experiences in a closed group.
Goal Setting: Girls were made to do an exercise of writing down what their
future goals were and also to create a pathway of short goals in order to achieve the larger, future goal. We then sat down to find the challenges in the pathway and find solutions to them in order to move ahead. This gave the girls a sense of clarity as to how to achieve their goals.
In the future too, we hope to equip our girls with all necessary skills to build an independent life and make great career choices while constantly battling gender discrimination to build a gender equal and gender just society.
19 November, 2019
Girls indulged in studies and extra-curricular activities
Girls indulged in studies and extra-curricular activities
22 July, 2019
This year, our ‘Empowering Dreams’ Program gave financial aid to 225 girls and gave them skills and gender trainings. 5 workshops on gender and health were held and the girls also attended CV and Interview Skills workshops. 35 girls applied for jobs and more than 100 girls turned Gender Advocates and took up a series of social actions in public spaces.
Even though our girls are aspiring for ambitious professions, they sometimes lack direction. Our Goal setting workshops were crucial for them to identify their strengths and challenges. These sessions were conducted with small groups of girls on different occasions to provide them individual attention and guidance.
Through our initiative of Placement Cell and creation of Info Hub we could individually helped our beneficiaries by providing information related to career options, scholarship opportunities, details of higher education opportunities and its scope and various nontraditional livelihood opportunities.
Dr.Kamaxi Bhatte , Senior faculty at the Department of Community Medicine and Secretary of SPGRC came forward to take the session on Health during the workshop on ‘Health and Rights.’ A workshop on the different forms of violence and legal rights was also conducted.
We find support of parents critical for girls’ aspiration, enhanced mobility and livelihood possibilities. We attempt to build that through joint programs and also through individual visits and interactions especially with the parents of the core group leaders. One such event called ‘NaateMaitricha’ was held where we tried to bridge the gap of communication between parents and their children and encouraged parents to support their girls’ dreams and aspirations.
Story from the field
Chetna Kajrolkar is 20-years old. Her father is a security guard and her mother is a home maker. She has an elder sister and a younger brother. Being a sole bread winner for the family, her father was struggling to fund Chetna’s higher education along with 2 other siblings.
When Chetna first visited Akshara’soffice , she wasn’t even confident enough to speak to the staff members. She was shy and had struggled in interactions with people. She also wasn’t confident enough to talk in groups. Because of all these reasons, she was unable to build or sustain relationship with friends and family. Things didn’t seem to be working for her on the professional and academic front as well.
Chetna received scholarship from Akshara and she used this scholarship to pursue a Diploma in Architecture from Regional Vocational Training Institute (RVTI). She is currently in her second year. After attending various workshops conducted by Akshara she has developed better professional skills and perspective. The 20-year-old, who had difficulty in making friends and in communicating with people, now cherishes her relationship with classmates and juniors. She now has the confidence to lead activities at Akshara and at her college.
|What is the expected total number of beneficiaries in this program for FY18-19?||160|
|What is the number of beneficiaries/ benefits provided in this program, Year-To-Date||161|
|Village/City/State where project is located||Mumbai, Maharashtra|
|Total Budget for the project for FY18-19||1000000|
|Total Expenses for the project YTD||1073305|