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Pravaham works for women’s empowerment in India by emphasizing the importance of women’s education in building a progressive community.
By Manmeet Sahni
This article was originally published at The Alternative – an online publication on social change and sustainable living.
It is a beautiful morning at Pravaham, a community home and training centre for women. Founded by Bishop Anand Rao Samuel, it is located amidst the beautiful settings of Palamathy hills in Venkatapuram, a small village on the outskirts of Vellore district in Tamil Nadu.
As I walk through the lovely campus, I come across the class that is about to graduate. They are the eighth batch of the nursing aide program. They sit singing their daily prayers in the beautiful spherical structure situated in the heart of the lush campus. Lovely prayers recited in Tamil echo in the woods providing a symphony effect to the locale.
It’s also a big day for the prospective students as they queue up near the office premises where interviews for the next session are about to begin. Ms.Lucy Shyamsundar, who is the managing trustee of Pravaham, is conducting the interviews. The first student entering the premises with her father is a bundle of nerves. Laxmi who belongs to a family of daily wage labourers has little scope to pursue a higher education. She has cleared her Class 12 exam and wishes to pursue B.Sc. Nursing. Ms.Shyamsundar clarifies that the course offered is that of a health assistant, the role would comprise aiding the nurse. The course would not lead her to become a trained nurse.
A class in progress at Pravaham
Moreover, the course is aimed at girls who have dropped out or have failed in their class 10 and 12 and have negligible scope of sustaining a livelihood. But Laxmi explains her financial situation and her inability to join a full-time nursing course. She insists on taking admission in the health assistant program offered at Pravaham which offers a government approved diploma from the Tamil Nadu Open University.
Pravaham has helped many destitute families by providing an opportunity to the women dropouts of the surrounding villages to live an independent and secular life. All these girls come from broke families that cannot fund the education of their children. It is astonishing to see the success rate of the program at Pravaham as it is able to provide a 100% placement to the girls upon their successful completion of the course. “The course fee which covers training, boarding, lodging, uniforms and study material for the entire year comes out to be Rs. 20,000 but the fee is subsidized at Rs.3000 for them while the remaining amount is raised through friends and family who believe in the cause”, says Ms. Shyamsundar.
A day at Pravaham begins with daily prayers followed by breakfast which is prepared fresh at the mess. After which, the classes begin in a beautifully designed classroom-like structure where they are taught from 9 to 1. Lunch is served and activity time follows. Following this, the class is resumed for almost an hour and a half wherein the girls are given the opportunity to come up with their queries and are provided with self-development sessions to equip them to face the outside world. The girls live in dormitories and also have access to the library. When asked how many of them would like to work in cities, 25 out of the class of 27 raised their hands with gleaming eyes of hope. Many of them also aspire to work and live abroad.
The library at Pravaham
The course which is residential in nature also teaches subjects like life skills and communication skills along with the basic course work for a period of 10 months. A two-month internship at a reputed health care institution follows in nearby cities like Chennai and Bengaluru. They are also encouraged to complete their schooling during their training at Pravaham. Ms. Shyamasundar says, “We see tremendous transformation in students during the course of the program. They emerge as confident and self-reliant individuals.”
Most of them also happen to be first generation literates in their families. The campus placements at the end of the course’s completion enables them to work in places like old age homes or home based care giving services. Reputed and certified agencies such as Amazing Home from Chennai and Baptism hospital from Bangalore have been regularly placing these girls with pay bands ranging from Rs. 3,000 to 4,500 per month. As the average monthly income of these girls’ families ranges from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 1,500, this amount makes a huge difference. Ms. Shyamsundar says, “Most of them have become bread winners for their families supporting the education of their brothers and sisters. After their placement, many of them donate their first salary to Pravaham to sponsor another girl.”
All images are credited to Manmeet Sahni.
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