13 year old Priti lives in Burma Cell, a slum of corrugated iron huts in the suburbs of Pune. This empowerment project helps 1,100 girls like Priti take control of their lives each year. Confidence is the key to escaping the poverty cycle of illiteracy, child-labour, child-marriage and ill-health that these girls are trapped in. This project provides the girls with the skills and confidence to engage in society and it challenges traditional views and stereotypes about gender roles.
The project has been established to support and empower adolescent girls like Priti aged 13 to 21, many of whom have dropped out of formal schooling. Discriminatory values in society and a lack of education, low self esteem and poor communication skills contribute to restricting these young women to their homes within the slums. These girls are often married at a young age (under 18) and often experience domestic violence. Health is poor in this group, largely due to lack of nutrition.
The project provides girls with essential life skills - communication, statutory rights, dealing with domestic violence, literacy and numeracy support. Young women are given vocational skills training enabling them to have an independent income and thus more influence in the home. Health check programs address diseases common in slums and raise awareness of menstruation and reproductive health. Girls are taught about good nutrition and hygiene in order to maintain long-term health.
These girls are the women and mothers of the future. If left to be ignorant of their rights they are destined to be subject to abuse and discrimination. The long term impact expected is a change in societal attitudes towards women and an uplift of women and their families in these slums.