On 6th February, 2014, 31 new students became the 25th and 26th groups to participate in the Youth Empowerment Program held at the Reality Gives Community Centre in Dharavi. This program spans 15 weeks, with students studying English, Computers and Soft Skills.
One week into the program, some of the students sat down with us to share what had motivated them to join the course and where they hope it can lead them in the future. As many of their stories are deeply personal, some of the YEP students interviewed have had their names changed to protect their identity.
Attending the morning class are Afia and Kiran. Kiran is an aspiring DJ and Afia, a housewife. “My mother died in my birth and father re-married. My stepmother doesn’t care for me so I have to work in the morning to earn money and work in the evening too” explains Kiran. “I have all to do the household work also. She does not take care myself”. When asked why he was so motivated to attend this program when he was already so busy he replied “I look up to my uncle. He struggled. He has inspired me. I want a family and I want a better life for them than myself. I will struggle to do better and this will help me achieve something. I want to become a good person who can speak with any person. To be confident to speak with him or her”.
Afia, 23 is also from a complex family background, having had a ‘love’ marriage into a family that does not like her, something she says has been exacerbated by her not having had a child within the first four years of marriage. “I want to improve how they see me and impress, earn their respect. I think this (Youth Empowerment Program) will help me get some work and be important to the family. I too want to improve my English so I can teach my son and daughter”. Afia is currently living with her mother and will join her husband’s family in a few months. “My husband would not allow me to come here – but I am not telling him” Afia confides “After 3 months I will show him how I can speak English. I want him to be proud of me”.
Nusrah and Isa attend the afternoon class. Through the translation of Jyoti, the Community Centre Manager, Nusrah (22) shared how she has battled to recover from cancer in recent years and revealed that as she does not have a brother she wants to make her parents happy; to be independent and to “stand on her feet like a man”. “My parents didn’t want me to come here for my health. I wanted. I feel like I have an opportunity. After a long time I am studying again. This is the best decision for myself” an emotional Nusrah said, “I want to impress my father after finishing this course and talk to him in English. I want to work in a hospital – for four or five years I was always going there. I understand the feelings of the people and want to do something for them. I want to encourage them. I have come out of cancer. I want to give them hope”.
Isa (23) has a good level of English but feels that it is not good enough to compete with well educated, privately schooled students, “Being in the slum area, I don’t get good companies and good chances”. Isa shared that she really had to fight to attend the classes, “being a muslim girl nobody allows you to study further but my mum has been supportive. Inside I have a lot of pain. My mum is uneducated and has suffered at her in-laws house. She wants me to stand independently. I have two brothers but she treats me as an equal. She trusts me a lot but I want to show her that I can meet her expectations. I want to show her – you believe in me and I will be the best thing” her hope is “My mother will be proud. We should not think like we are poor we cannot do anything. Go and try your luck. I am searching for a good job. Good English will help me get a good job in customs and HR”
As well as learning the syllabus, the students are also already beginning to form an important support network with one another. One student explained “Everyone has a different problem. No one is here from a good background. We are low level and struggling and it encourages us to study and learn and we will do anything. Now I feel like we all have different problem and we have to tackle jointly. Different stories from different people. Everyone has a problem but it helps us be happy to share them. We can support”.
The Reality Gives blog will revisit Isa, Nusrah, Afia, Kiran and some of the other YEP students as they progress through the program to see how they are developing and what their prospects are for the future.