I returned last night from India and wish to give you a brief summary.
A detailed India trip report will follow in a couple of days.
I wish to highlight three specific areas:
1. Lessons learned from NGOs who tried but failed in computer literacy programs
We learned that many NGOs attempted to provide computer literacy to girls rescued from
trafficking and children of sex workers but failed due to the following reasons:
a. Lack of focus on English language, poor understanding of industry needs in terms of specific IT skills like Document Processing, Data Entry etc.
b. Children of all ages were trained without a well designed curriculum without focus on industry needs.
The ASSET team devoted tremendous amount of time to the understanding the educational system,
English curriculum in public schools, Industry needs and has embarked on designing a
2 year curriculum for high school juniors and seniors. The team will work with IT companies
in each major city to obtain internships after year 1 and jobs after year 2. Students going into year 2 will
mentor incoming freshman.
2. Why ASSET computer literacy programs will succeed
a. Virtually all the NGOs working with our target population are providing alternate livelyhood skills
such as sewing, bag making, embrodery that pay at most 500 rupees per month ( $12), where as
from sex work the monthly earnings are as much as 6,000 + rupees a month ($150+). The newly learned skills provide no relief from poverty and the return to sex trade is high.
b. In consultations with IT professionals, the ASSET team has determined that even the lowest paid
IT job has a pay range of Rupees 6,000 to 8,000 a month ($150 to $175) and the ASSETstudent can replace the sex trade income with a comparable income through the ASSET program, without selling her/his body and risking HIV/AIDS.
c. Development of a strong curriculum (two year) that will take care of problems of past like english, industry needs etc by a strong team from IIT Madras
3. Poverty, drug use and sex trade
a. In Bangalore, Ashoka Fellow Renu Appachu, Executive Director of Jagruthi, our NGO partner
told me about a 7 year old girl addicted to sniffing white-out correction fluid and performing sex on old men to support her habit. The men pay her Rupees 20 ( Less than 50 cents).
b. In Kolkata, our NGO partner Apne Aap took me to the red light district Kidderpore, where I saw 12, 13 and 14 year
standing by the the streets, waiting for clients. These girls have been brought into the trade by pimps who
promised them entry into the movies and TV soap operas and sold to the brothels instead.
c. In the tea estates outside Darjeeling, I met with laborers who fell victim to the lies of brokers/pimps who
promised to get their daughters married to rich men. The pimps pad the parents Rupees 500 ($12) and sold
the girls to brothels in Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata.
d. In the town of Siliguri in North Bengal, I saw young boys and girls addicted to chewing Band-Aid, injecting
liquid brown sugar in their veins and selling their bodies to support their drug habits. These young people where
trafficked from neighboring Nepal, Bangla Desh, Sikkim and Bhutan.
My wife, daughter Nita and I are overwhelmed by what we saw and heard. We are motivated more than ever before, convinced that ASSET is on the right track and will work to make a difference, no matter what the obstacles are.
ASSET India Foundation