en-Dreams are for Everybody
During my visit to Bagalore I was approached by our Theia project partners Naomi A. and Dr. Christopher Samuel (IJAM) to hold a workshop with 30 women from the biggest slums in Bagalore. Our partner organisation has been working in these slums for many years and so the women heard about my visit. When I asked on which topic we would meet, Naomi replied: "The women want to change their lives. They want to be role models for their children." I was deeply impressed and I still am. That first night, they all came. She had had a hard day. The mood was light and cheerful from the beginning, without tension. Each of the women introduced herself to me. Naomi translated everything that gave me time to observe the women closely. They were between 17 and 62 years old and their stories were all similar at first sight: getting married early, having children, the men alcoholics, domestic violence and no respect. The little money they earned was taken from them by their husbands. Each of these women told their story differently, with a different expression of anger over despair. After a short time the different languages didn't matter anymore. We were all part of a great story that we wanted to change at this point. And so we started with the right to dream, to take time for ourselves and ourselves for a few minutes a day.
Why do these women never talk about a career? Because they never had dreams...
The point is that these women can find their way and take good care of themselves. In many cases, they would already do so today, if you would keep the money you earn. Vanakkam means WELCOME. Welcome to a new world and so it is about more than a job, it is about the right to be a human being and that includes the right to shape your life. We work with the women at different anchor points. This includes health and the awareness of being a woman, building personal strengths like resilience, a stable environment and job skills like job perspectives and placement.
Every story is special, even if at first glance it seems familiar and so often gone through.
In this project we deliberately speak of a career. Because that is already a change of perspective. Women from slums maybe have jobs or we speak of earning their living. If they are running a little business - it is little and lacking everything. Their knowledge is never state of the art. They never work with professional equipment. Most of the time, the women teach themselves and, if they are lucky, they get some equipment cheap or sponsored. From the very first beginning, their learnings are focused on building up a business that helps them to survive. Everything is about surviving. Dreaming is not allowed and career, just a word that fits others, The VANKKAM women want more. Not for themselves. For their children. They want to become a role model. Somebody who is part of the world, a world outside the slum. Part of a self-determined future., with the right to dream and to let come true.
And we hope that they will find a way for them to find their way to a healthy, sustainable and happy world. That is what we have set out to do. To seize this great opportunity together and for all of us.