How it all began at Protsahan

In view of the pitiful situation in which many underprivileged women live in the NCR, three female members of Educational & Development Initiatives (EDI), a registered society to promote social values among the youth, – Maria Mendes, Monica Rita De Souza, and J.J. Kunnacheery – started a new organization dedicated only for underprivileged women.

What’s interesting is how the three women came together to be part of EDI itself. Monica, who was born and brought up in Brazil, had her family origins in Goa. She recalls, during her visits to India, as a child, the poverty she saw made her decide that she would come back one day to work for a social cause. When the time came, Monica’s uncle (who was a friend of Maria’s parents) informed Maria about his nieces proposed plans and connected the two of them. When they met, Monica shared that she already had experience working on social development projects in Brazil. Maria, at that time, was thinking of setting up EDI and thus invited Monica to be a part of the project. Dr. J. J. Kunnnacherry is a Gynecologist and Obstetrician, who Maria was connected to, as a result of her search for a Gynecologist to be part of her project.

The work at EDI made the three women very aware of the plight of poor women in Delhi’s slums. They thus wanted to start an organization that would cater to the needs, and issues faced by these women. The idea was to make women realize the potential of their skills. Protsahan thus provides sustainability skills which in turn help women empower their lives.

In 2007, the organization set up its first Kamalini Vocational Training center in the urban village of Shahpur Jat, New Delhi. Shahpur Jat was selected as is one of the city’s most backward areas, where purdah system and the like are still in practice. Forget education, girls here don’t get proper exposure to the outside world. It began in two rented rooms with one teacher who profiled the education status of the girls and invited families to send their daughters to study. Within one year the facility had to expand to meet the growing demand. In August 2008, the project opened a second center in Kishangarh. In 2010, 5 acres of land were acquired as this demand was still not satiated.

Monica recalls, “In the early days, getting women to attend Kamilini was quite the challenge. Slowly, we started built a rapport with the families and won their trust. We learnt that families’ primary concern was safety and security; which was assuaged when they learnt that our trust was run entirely by women. As the years passed, women started coming on their own. This is itself is telling of our impact!”

She adds “Over the years, some many women have told me how Kamilini has helped them become self-confident – that they now have the courage to deal with daily stresses in their lives. The smile on their face and the spark in their eyes when they tell me this makes me want to contribute more. ”

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