“There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women. “ -Kofi Annan
Amongst other missions, women empowerment is one of Project Why’s expanding projects that started in 2007 with the opening of a vocational center for women from underprivileged backgrounds. Women empowerment means the emancipation of women from the vicious grips of social, economic, political caste and gender-based discrimination. It means granting women the freedom to make their own life choices and replacing patriarchy with parity.
Gandhi’s vision was that women must play an equal and important role in national development. However, the movement for raising the socio-economic status of women had involved generally the middle-class educated women in urban centers while the great mass of rural women cannot yet enjoy the rights and privileges as referred to in the Constitution. This is even the case in some parts of New Delhi such as the area of Madanpur Khadar, which is still affected by a traditional mentality where women are supposed to stay at home and aren’t granted any education.
Since 2007, over thousand women have been trained by Project Whyas part of its women empowerment program.
This program was initiated with the belief that women were true agents of change and that giving them the means to earn a livelihood would go a long way in transforming the lives of their families. Project Why not only gives women the opportunity to gain new skills but by teaching them also how to read and write, they encourage these young women to become small entrepreneurs.
I have been wanting to volunteer in the context of women empowerment in India for about 10 years and I recently came back from 7 weeks spent at Project Whyin New Delhi. Amongst other projects, I did some case studies on Project Why’s impact on peoples’ life and more specifically on women. I had the chance to interview women who have now opened their beauty parlor or tailoring business. I was impressed by the influence Project Why had on their careers. One of them had marked me in particular. During the interview, the woman who had now opened her own beauty parlor, had started crying. I was concerned and worried I had upset her, but I then found out that she was crying out of happiness and proudness from what she had achieved. She used to clean houses and do the household chores but today she is working in her own beauty salon. Nobody had supported her but Project Why. Another woman also impressed me with her beautiful success story. She is left-handed and was having trouble to find stitching classes accepting her difference. Indeed, being left-handed is considered taboo in India. She then came to Project Why were she was welcomed with open arms and was able to follow their 6 months stitching class program. She has now opened her own stitching business in Madanpur Khadar.
Project Why’sMadanpur Khadar Centre has already made a difference for women who have now become independent small entrepreneurs, taking care of their own business and thus providing for their families. Project Why has truly changed these women’s life, who before joining the program were not allowed to work or were working in very bad conditions. Today, these women walk the streets of New Delhi with pride and confidence.
This non-profit organization not only supports women empowerment through its vocational programs but also by supporting girl’s education throughout its seven centers with after schooling and school programs for boys and girls. If Project Why wouldn’t support these young girls, they would be working in the streets, fields or in the household not being granted an education. The staff and teachers make sure that these young girls have the same rights and opportunities to an education and to success. I witnessed this dedication and solidarity from the teachers in one of the Centers during my stay.
Indeed, one day, one girl came crying to Pushpa, the person in charge of the Okhla Center. She was devastated because her parents didn’t want her to go to school anymore. She has to work at home and do the household chores. She wouldn’t stop crying because she loves going to school. The teachers then all gathered together and reassured her that they would speak to her parents and try to convince them that education was very important for a young teenage girl. After a talk with her parents, she can now go back to school and Project Why.
Knowing the importance and the impact of a woman’s education, this has become one of Project Why’s main concern in the last years. When I asked some of the Women in Khadar what the role of a woman was in the Indian society, they had answered: “A woman has the most important role in the family and by educating a woman, you educate the whole family”.As the African Proverb says: "If you educate a man, you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation."