Located near one of the biggest garbage dumps in Delhi, Azadpur cannot boast of a great locality and socio-economic conditions. Living in shanties, in slums where houses are crumbling into one another, people can barely afford to eat two full meals a day. For daily wagers- working as labourers, painters, rag pickers and garbage dumps are the prime occupation of people living there. In such conditions, there are little chances that children get to go to school with the aim to avail white collar jobs.
The lack of awareness in all aspects have resulted in making the area more backward and also resulted in the births of large families sans any family planning which is directly linked to the problem of rising unemployment and poverty. Girls are not allowed to venture outside homes and married off at an early age, often carrying the burden of their unrealised dreams forever. There is a serious lack of access to and interest in higher education of the children. To address this acute shortage of educational and employment opportunities, to motivate and sensitise the youth about their potential and the vast opportunities that are left to be utilized, Smile Foundation’s Janhit Society for Social Welfare STeP centre was initiated in the community.
Students who have completed their 10th or 12th standard education or students who have dropped-out after getting basic formal education are inducted and given training in employability skills along with rigorous one-on-one counselling sessions to boost their self-confidence. “From the day I have joined, I knew that from now on, everything is going to fall into place. I study hard and the teachers support us immensely. I have also asked my friends to come and join as this programme has been hugely beneficial for me”, says a student of the centre.
The students are trained in basic management and retail skills; classes are conducted to enhance their spoken English skills, personality development trainings are conducted to bring about a change in the attitude of the students and imparted communication and other soft skills. The main target is to train more girls and empower them to a level wherein they can be financially independent and support their families. This type of empowerment has multiple benefits reducing the cases of child marriage and maternal and child mortality rising out of early pregnancies.
Industrial visits, interactions with experts from different professional backgrounds, placement and post placement assistance are provided to the students which help them choose their own career and work towards a better future. The scenario is changing gradually and it is changing for the good. Parents are now more encouraged to send their daughters to the centre and are becoming more aware of the importance of skill based training. And the youth are leading the change and making the best of their efforts to enroll their peers and others from the community to join the initiative.
(To learn about Programme STeP, please visit http://www.smilefoundationindia.org/e_learning.html)