Author: Nishtha Kapoor
“Didi, I am financially independent now. From my salary, I am able to support my father get back to work after Covid and also sponsor school education for my younger sister. I feel proud of myself.”
-Pakiza, 20 Years Old, Girl Champions Fellow 2021-22
I heard someone calling my name in the crowded streets of Uttam Nagar, and when I turned around, I saw one of our recently graduated fellows. She was waving her hand and running towards me with a big smile on her face, excited to share about her new job. I was happy to see her doing well, and we chatted for a while about her new job and how she landed it. She told me about the interview process and how she prepared for it. Soon she boarded the bus as I saw her leaving for her new job at a distance.
As I took an auto to Protsahan’s Girl Empowerment Centre, I couldn’t help but feel reassured. The interaction took me back to the time when we started ideating the fellowship program at Protsahan.
A Fellowship to enhance employability skills at the last mile
We at Protsahan India Foundation launched the Girl Champions Fellowship program in September 2021 with the goal of building resilient communities by empowering young girls with employability enhancement skills to break the intergenerational cycle of sexual and gender-based violence and poverty.
The program is implemented for migrant girls aged 17–23 in 84+ slum communities in Delhi. It is a platform that has been working towards preparing young girls to transition from school education to employment opportunities and active citizenship. It envisions a life for young girls who are self-empowered in their journey to higher education and become working professionals.
The goal of the Girl Champions Fellowship is to bridge the gap between migrant girls and the lack of employment opportunities available to them through increased accessibility, social agency, advocacy, and civic participation. These girls are first-generation learners in their families and communities and have witnessed the importance of financial, socioeconomic, and job-oriented capabilities in professional settings. The fellowship provides a platform for these girls to develop leadership skills, build networks, and gain exposure to diverse career paths. Through mentorship and training, they are empowered to become agents of change in their communities and beyond.
The Girl Champions Fellowship program has been successful in empowering young women to achieve upward socioeconomic mobility and challenge traditional gender roles within their families. Through improved financial behavior and increased income, these girls are now setting an example for future generations of young girls.
Empowering Young Women through tangible Interventions: Successes and the way forward
During one of our alumni meetings, one of them shared how her family members have stopped looking for marriage proposals. They believe that it is important for her to be with someone who can match her financially and provide stability in the long term. Additionally, they feel that waiting a few more years will give her time to focus on her own personal and professional growth.
Terms like agency, mobility, independence, and freedom now have a deeper meaning in the lives of the fellows. These terms have been transformed from abstract concepts to tangible realities as the fellows have gained the skills and resources necessary to take control of their own lives and pursue their goals with confidence. They have become empowered to make meaningful choices and shape their own futures.
Both the fellows and the team learned immensely during the fellowship program’s first year. Engaging closely with the fellows and community helped us understand the needs and challenges of the young girls/women in India. It also helped us place their needs at the centre of the intervention and design the program. Through this approach, we were able to create a program that was not only effective but also culturally appropriate and sustainable, as it was developed in collaboration with the community.
We welcomed the second cohort of 40 fellows this year in the month of April. The goal of the program remains the same but we are certain that the new cohort will bring a new set of challenges and learnings for the team. We can’t wait to experience yet another 40 inspiring stories of young girls who have started their journey of becoming agents of social change in their families and community.
Tune in to hear what our last batch of Girl Champion Fellows have to say about the program: