Trupti Belwade, 19, is no longer intimidated by the rowdy boys who line the street leading up to her Dharavi house. Till a few years ago, Trupti and her friends would never walk the streets of the slum alone. “I would hold my friend’s hand while walking here in the evenings,” said the first-year student of Chetna College.
But a city-based women’s organisation, Akshara, helped Trupti change her outlook when she attended the workshops organised by the NGO on confidence building and self-defence. “I was taught that body language makes a lot of difference and now I walk with my head held high,” she said.
Akshara also conducts skill development and perspective-building workshops, which include visits to police stations to explain the procedure of filing a complaint and to encourage women to shed their inhibitions when dealing with authorities.
Highlighting the purpose of these workshops, Nandita Gandhi, co-director, Akshara asks, “What good is a college degree, if a woman cannot summon the courage to go for a job interview or if she is not confident of travelling alone?”
Akshara’s Empowering Dreams programme provides scholarships for higher education to women from poor families residing between Worli and Dharavi. Trupti and her two sisters have been associated with the NGO for more than six years. Last year, Trupti received an annual scholarship of Rs4,000 from Akshara to pursue a college degree. Hema, the eldest, learnt about Akshara in 2005 while volunteering for Seva Sadan, a community centre in Dharavi. She works as a quality-checking operator at an Andheri firm. Her sister, Jayshree, benefited from a scholarship and now works with an NGO in Ambernath.
“Our outlook towards life has changed. We have become more assertive of our rights, both at home and outside. Our father thinks that Akshara has spoilt us but we believe, it has given us the confidence to pursue our dreams,” said Trupti.