“We are part of a non-profit voluntary organization called ANAWA – the Army Navy Air-Force Wives Activity Trust – an initiative by a group of retired army officers’ wives to reach out to young women and children from underprivileged sections of the Indian society. I am part of their educational project called ANKUR, and give computer classes here to these girls.
I like building a sense of community in the class, where these girls can not only get access to education, but also feel comfortable speaking about things they are otherwise not allowed to, and explore questions they can’t explore back home. An all-round lack of education and resources is a problem inherent in the economically backward classes in India, but women from these sections of society are doubly marginalized. Even when their parents are willing to invest in education, it’s mostly for the male children; since the girls are meant to be married off, teaching them household chores, and grooming them to be ‘good wives’ take precedence over school. It’s quite an ingrained patriarchal mentality that we are trying to fight by creating more awareness for the parents through family counselling, and making elementary education more financially feasible for them.
Girl-child education is still a challenge, as evidenced in the high number of female students dropping out after getting married. But I always give them my contact details, and a lot of them reach out to me afterwards. It feels humbling that they keep that sense of trust intact. That’s what this community is about, it’s about building trust – something they don’t usually find in their own homes.”