We’re all starting to think this was a bad idea. Our guide has set up a bicycle tour of old Bangalore and there are fourteen of us all on bikes waiting to cross the street. With no stop lights or stop signs, the traffic is full chaos and crossing the street is a skill in and of itself.
We’ve been joined by five of the nine Shadhika Scholarship girls from Baale Mane, the others had to stay back because they do not yet know how to ride a bike. Even those who are now with us are visibly struggling. Just thirty minutes in, we call the ride off, after three girls were unable to continue. They are heartbroken. We promise that we will try again next year – but this time do the ride in the countryside by the Baale Mane home, where the roads are not as treacherous. “And next year,” I suggest, “you can all lead the tour.”
“Yes,” they say, giving me a look of cautious determination.
After regrouping, the girls take us to their college and dormitory. Because the girls at Baale are orphans or have been legally separated from their families, these young women must begin their journey of living on their own in the city by the time they are 18. Shadhika’s support helps them with this transition and supports them through college or vocational school until they get their first job.
On the ride over to their college, Pallavi* takes her seat next to me. She is graduating from college in May. “I am feeling very anxious about my future,” she confesses. A journalism major, she wants to get a job at a news station. However, like anywhere, she knows that such an opportunity will only come through personal referrals.
For many of the girls we support, this is the challenge. As the first in their community to go to college, their social networks are limited, so finding out about job openings or having someone personally vouch for them is rare. Because of this, developing strong job placement networks in India is now a priority for Shadhika.
Pallavi and I talk through her anxiety and brainstorm how she might try to find a job opening in her field. She’s talking with students who have already graduated to see if they can help and mentions there is a news station nearby that offers classes. We consider that this might be a good way to make herself known to them.
Still, I can see how the weight of this next step in her life troubles her. Switching the topic, I ask her about the bike ride earlier in the day. She was one of the two girls who mastered the ride. Was it hard? I ask. “Yes,” she confesses, “but I said to myself, ‘You can do this. You’re almost a college graduate!’”
I’m often asked about Shadhika’s ultimate goal. Is it education, job placement, girls’ rights? But those are just products of our goal. In the end, when all is said and done, our real legacy will be to ensure that girls like Pallavi have the tools and information they need to make their own decisions in their lives. So that they can navigate path with confidence and skill, regardless of any traffic they may encounter.