For me, one of the most exciting things about our new Learning Center (in Kolkata’s Sonagachi red light area) is the focus on computer training and digital literacy.
Because Our Girls Want IT!
In the early years, HFC offered training and employment for trafficking survivors in rescue shelters, mostly in artisan crafts (our name was in fact Made By Survivors). This approach matched the women’s needs in that time and place: most had little or no formal education and were not literate. They wanted a pathway to earning money and being independent, as soon as possible.
Today, while we still work with women in shelters, we also run prevention programs that serve other populations, like girls growing up in red light areas (children of trafficked women but not survivors themselves) and girls from slum communities. Many girls in this new generation have been supported by our education programs, or by other organizations, and have been able to get a high school diploma or are in college. These young women want and need computer skills to achieve their professional goals and dreams. Listening and adapting what our girls say they need is an important value for us, so we added more computer training in response to what they asked for.
Because it is Necessary for Most Jobs and Builds Confidence
Just like in America and other Western countries, in India, most jobs – including entry level jobs such as working in a cafe or shop – require at least a basic level of computer skills. What’s different is that young people who have grown up in poverty in India usually have never touched a computer and this would prevent them from getting any job outside of agriculture or menial labor. The lack of exposure and opportunity to gain digital skills is demoralizing, and hurts young people’s confidence. Learning to use a computer is incredibly empowering and elevating. All of our women and girls want to learn, even if they have low or no literacy or education.
The computer training programs at the Learning Center are operated in partnership with Uddami India Foundation, which has been training vulnerable youth in Kolkata since 1999. The six month, full time course includes Job- Oriented Computer Applications (Microsoft Office, Google Tools, Touch Typing, Photoshop), Spoken English, and Life Skills Training. It also includes special sessions on Gender Sensitization, Menstrual Hygiene, Mental Health, Financial Literacy and Social Legislation. The curriculum is designed to meet the demand of the local job market and to match the skills and background of the students. Additional English language training is offered by HFC staff and volunteers through our Felix Fellowship.
The Life Skills curriculum covers Self-Awareness, Empathy, Effective Communication, Interpersonal Relationships, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking & Decision Making, Problem Solving, Coping with Stress, Emotions, Professionalism and Job Readiness.
Individual counseling is offered to students in need of mental health support. We also offer regular workshops and supplemental classes at the Learning Center in therapeutic arts, mindfulness and meditation.
For women who do not have the education necessary for the 6 month intensive course, we offer basic digital literacy courses twice a week. Even women who are not able to read or write have been able to learn some computer basics, and they are keen to learn more.
Her Future has had a long and lovely history with Uddami India Foundation going back to 2008, when they were teaching computers to children in the Kidderpore red light district, at a drop in center where we also worked. Then in 2020, they referred two of their program graduates for jobs at HFC, and those two amazing women (Nafiza and Soma) are with us to this day! During the pandemic, Uddami reached out to ask for support for their computer training programs in South Kolkata. We partnered with them on that and then having them as a core partner in our Learning Center (also Kolkata’s first NGO co-working space) seemed like a natural fit.
The Guru Krupa Foundation is another wonderful partner on our computer training programs. Last year, they gave us a grant of $10,000 to buy computers, printers and software. This year, they are providing a grant of $17,000 to fully fund all the computer training courses at the Learning Center. We are so grateful! Guru Krupa Foundation’s philosophy and guiding principles are: to help those less fortunate, to support causes related to the acquisition of knowledge, and to preserve the heritage and knowledge that has already been acquired. This philosophy is perfectly aligned with our goals and vision for IT training for survivors and vulnerable girls in Kolkata.
Congratulations to these students from the first batch of trainees, who have started their new jobs! Other students from the first training group are still completing their college education or interviewing for jobs, with help from our team.
Anjali Sharma – Bonguji Trading, Telesales Representative
Jhumki Bhatta – Ward no. 7 Councilor’s office, Office clerk
Sakilan Mondal – Oppo Mobiles Front desk Sales Representative
Md. Kashif – Noverties Software Pvt. Ltd., Sales
Jyoti Das Noverties Software Pvt. Ltd., Sales
Kiran Poddar – Swiggy, Tech Support Team
Nikita Gupta – Kashvi Learning Center, Computer Teacher
Rinki Shama – RS TRAVEL Agency, Computer Associate
Itu Singha – MIE, Human Resources
In Their Own Words:
Anjali, 22 – The Computer Training was not only about computer classes or life skill classes. It became an emotion for me. It gave me so many sweet memories. I enjoyed all of the classes and workshops a lot, and the best part is that this strong foundation of training led to a job which I needed very much.
Neha, 18 – The training helped me to be confident and solve different situations with ease.
Jhumki, 18 – The computer training helped me to fight for myself. After a lot of struggles on the personal front, when I was totally shattered in life, Uddami/HFC was a bright star which guided the right path in my life.
Sushant, 20 – After completing the course, I could master confidence and gained a lot of strength.