I'm back at the Karuna office now in London and have just managed to go over my notes from my visit to the project. I was lucky enough to meet Sonali and her family at her home and she shared some of her experiences with me. I went with Karunaprabha, the leader of the project - she was very handy as my Hindi is not 100%!
For me, Sonali is real testimony to the possibility that can lie before girls like her. I hadn't quite understood how important skills training is for girls like her. In her case, it really does seem like a passport to a better, more meaningful life. Here is a short bit from the interview that I did with her -
What is the best thing about the WEP? (Women’s Empowerment Project)
The best thing about the project is all the information that we get about so many important issues. We get good exposure to the outside world. I can stand on my own two feet now and feel financially empowered. Now I even have a job, I work in a mall – I do billing work.
[Karunaprabha tells me that she never used to speak up and was chronically shy two years ago. Now she is cheery and confident]
What are your hopes for the future?
My hopes now are to do something for my whole family, to make their experience of life better and to do something for myself. After the life-skills course, my confidence has just turned around. I can communicate really well with customers now. My hopes for the project now are that they could run new classes for vocational training and more advanced computer and life skills classes.
I also got to visit one of the life skills classes and see how that works in reality - probably the highlight of my visit to the project. I loved how informal and comfortable the set-up was, which is reflected in how at ease and relaxed the girls appeared. So from what I learnt, the whole idea behind these classes are to give the girls a safe space in which to bring up and explore all sorts of issues in their lives - I mean all sorts, ranging from things like learning new hairstyles and talking about the latest Bollywood films to sharing experiences about domestic violence within the home.
I asked the girls if any of them wanted to share any reflections that they had about the life skills classes. Here is some of what they came up with:
‘I love coming to class, especially when they take us on trips to places like the bank and the police’
‘If any girl has a problem, we can all talk about it together and help them. It’s really good to share things’
‘Here we can talk about things that we couldn’t talk about with our parents’
‘I like coming here and meeting new people. We do loads of things, like we teach other new hairstyles and personal hygiene’.
‘We don’t get to play at home at all, but here we get to play and be playful’
‘I have confidence in life now just from meeting people from here’
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