When the Khusi Hona Lotus Center first started, we began with the belief that every person deserves access to an education. Whether it be formal education like school and college or non formal education such as trade and skills development, this is where real opportunities and true empowerment are born.
For the last two months we ran into a social dilemma at our women empowerment center, before we started the programs we implemented an 18+ age policy as to not hinder younger teens from finishing formal schooling before they started to learn a trade. Even then, when we received a young high school graduate, we encouraged and even financially supported them to continue their education in college.
We have recently been approached by several families asking if their young daughters could join the Lotus Center program. We listened to their stories, four girls ranging from 15 – 18 in age all from Muslim households. There was a similar pattern that had emerged, when these girls approach maturity they are removed from formal schooling and are entered into a madrasah. Typically a madrasah provides young Muslims with a religious foundation in Qur’anic recitation and Islamic values.
The girls all quickly grew unhappy only learning to recite the Quran and especially did not like being covered in full burka. They were left with a choice, remain in madrasah or you can do housework in the home. When we spoke to the fathers of these girls, we explained our process and let them know that they would not only learn to be tailors or stitchers, we are going to encourage them to realize their own dreams and encourage them to follow those dreams.
Here are some interview questions with the four girls who are two pairs of sisters:
What’s your name and age?
Shabana Nizami, 18 years
Shazida Nizami, 16 years
Ramiza Chapparbald, 17 years
Razya Chapparbald, 15 years
Where do you live?
Shazida answers: “All of us were born in Goa but our families are from Karnataka”
What do your parents do?
Ramiza answers: “Our fathers are labourers and our mothers are cleaning ladies”
How much do they earn?
Shabana Nizami answers “Our total household income is around 10,000INR ($150) but our father has not been working so our mother is working double”.
Ramiza Chapparbald answers: ”Our total household income is around 20,000INR ($300) but this includes 3 brothers who also contribute to the household”.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Shabana answers: I have always been interested in designing and now I am having that opportunity to actually learn.
Ramiza answers: I was always interested in becoming a tailor, so when my mother told me about the program I was very excited.
Did you attend a regular government school or a religious school?
Shazida Nizami answers: “We attended regular government schools till 10th grade and then we went to a religious school but we didn’t like it and decided to leave”.
Do you want to continue your education? Do you think it’s important?
Ramiza Chapparbald answers: “We do believe that education is important, but as Muslim girls we were taught that the education comes from learning about the Quran. This doesn’t mean that we disregard other forms of education it’s just that we were told this our whole lives”.
You have been coming to the center for about a month now, has being here changed your outlook on what you want to be?
Razya answers: “We both knew how to do some basic tailoring so nothing has changed in that sense, but since we have joined the center we now have a community of ladies to work with and access to other equipment and training that we would have never have had, That’s exciting for us!”
Why did you want to join?
Shazida Nizami answers: “We basically just wanted to learn a skill, sitting at home we have just a few options like either helping our mother clean and basically taking care of the house”.
What do you like about the center?
Ramiza answers: “The atmosphere is friendly and people are comfortable in their own skin”.
Shabana answers: “The people are lovely and working together with everyone is a joy and it gets us out of the house”.
We currently have 9 women in our program, each from a different background. The unifying factor for each is that access to opportunities in a nation of 1.3 billion people can be challenging to secure, especially for women. Many of the barriers to women’s empowerment and equity lie ingrained in cultural norms. Many women feel these pressures, while others have become accustomed to being treated inferior to men. Not every women in our program is in utter poverty, women empowerment is about more than providing skills or income.
We are now on a mission to fund a tutor to come and continue quality education for not only the young girls, but all the women involved in the program. We envision continuing practical learning such as reading, writing and arithmetic, but also to build up the skills that will make these women more hireable in the workforce such as English and computer skills. There is no silver bullet to ending poverty, but if there were, we believe it would be access to quality education.
It’s our goal to raise funds for a full time tutor to come in and teach the ladies. Continued education will not only help them to grow and learn but will also build confidence in their lives. $150 will cover the tutor’s salary for one full month at the Khusi Hona Lotus Center. Without support for each of the women in our program we are unable to provide the support and opportunities they require as an outlet for their skills and motivation. If we go over our projected tutor fund, all funds will go directly towards future salary payments. Click here to learn more ►https://khusihona.org/action-item/
Remember, 100% of this donation goes directly to sponsoring women empowerment programs.