“लेकिन मैडम ऐसे लड़कियों को बहार भेजना समाज में अच्छा नहीं लगता | आप समझिये इस बात को “ — my week began with a 25 minute long phone conversation with a guy who was fiercely protecting his sister from the risk of coming to a different city for studying.
Navgurukul offers a fully-funded software engineering program to youth from low-income and vulnerable communities. We offer guaranteed jobs to every one who finishes the year long course and also cover the expenses for accommodation and food during the course. Be it a 10th drop-out or an unemployed college graduate, the entrance is not anchored on any piece of paper. The campuses are teacher and exam free, governed by student bodies. Thus, cultivating an environment where a person learns at her pace and protect her self-confidence.
And despite all these potentially ‘plus-points’, its accessibility to girls and transgender people remains a big challenge.
Sometimes I receive Whatsapp messages saying “दीदी मेरा एडमिशन करवा दो वरना मेरी शादी हो जाएगी “ or frantic calls declaring “दीदी मेरा पति बहुत मरता है, आप कुछ मदद कर दो | मैं मेहनत करके पढ़ लुंगी”
Talking to parents, brothers, grandparents, uncles, and sometimes neighbours too to help a girl choose higher education or employment opportunity is a common part of my everyday work life.
For every call I make to inform a boy that he has been selected for the Navgurukul’s software engineering program, I make at least 7–8 calls for a girl to help her take this opportunity.
Often these conversations have left me shaking my head in disbelief on how many people and external fears a girl has to overcome to make a basic choice that could change her life for good. Knowing the extent and depth of discrimination, it takes a lot of effort to fight back the feeling of helplessness.
The task is daunting thus, even more reasons to not stop trying.
Today, around 10 students from Afghanistan of which 4 are girls, joined Navgurukul to do our software engineering program.
It has warmed my heart for multiple reasons: this will be our first set of students coming from a conflict zone, also this will help us strengthen our learning model to work for the students from a very different context and it is our first international partnership.
Even more importantly in the current political environment in India when things seem bleak in terms of inter-cultural and inter-religion harmony, working hard on this partnership with Gawharshad University in Afghanistan was one way I could express my stand for inclusivity.
A lot of people came together to make this happen: Kamla Bhasin (I fondly call her Dida), a renowned feminist advocate, Sima Samar, Minister of Women Affairs Afghanistan and founder of Gawharshad University, Ali Mohammadi who worked so hard to do the student mobilisation and handled all the logistics, the Indian Embassy and most importantly, the students themselves
Every partnership that Navgurukul does for girls’ education reassures us that for every hurdle that the girl has to overcome, there are multiple people trying their best to be there for her, with her as she battles this world because of her gender.
A gentle reminder that there are so many people working hard to ensure girls access their right to education and protect their freedom to grow.
I feel extremely grateful to learn from their hard work and undying hope that one day this world would not wrong its girls.
So as my week comes to an end, I write this to hold on to that hope and refuse to give up on the daunting social issues.