Staff VOICES is a series exploring the unique reasons why each of our staff joined VOICE.
As a young woman in India, especially if you are from a fairly liberal family, it is difficult to ignore how different your life is from many of the girls around you. When I was eighteen-years old, I wrote a college application essay about the idea of women and girls helping each other to see beyond the small, socially constructed world they inhabited and to access all the possibilities that were available to them. At the time, I was really fired up about this idea. Then, I went to my all-women’s college in the US and lived the idea. Suddenly, it seemed impossible to think about women not having access to opportunities. Access to, and exploration of, previously unknown possibilities became intrinsically woven into the fabric of my experience in the idealistic bubble of my college.
Fast forward to a few years later – through college and graduate school, I had discovered that my real passion was working in education, specifically primary education in India. I was working in the affordable private school sector in Bangalore where girls barely had access to quality primary education, let alone a fraction of the freedom that I had experienced both during college and before that. And while I was supposed to be working on improving teachers’ pedagogy in the schools, I found I was getting more and more caught up in students’ (particularly the girls’) lack of access to information and opportunities outside the narrow confines of social expectations.
In January of 2012, I had just gotten married and moved to Hyderabad, and a friend of a friend had e-introduced me to Kashay, former fellow at VOICE, as a person who could potentially introduce me to cool things to do in Hyderabad. It had been hard finding a job I really liked in Hyderabad and on that particular day I was feeling dejected about the prospect of embarking on another round of job applications and interviews. While talking to Kashay, it came out that I was interested in education and had spent the past few years developing and implementing training programs in Bangalore. Based on that first conversation, we set up an informational meeting.
Meeting with Kashay in person, and hearing her speak of the VOICE methodology and the idea of empowering girls with such passion resonated with me. I had spent many years working with teachers in schools, unsuccessfully trying to create change from within. The idea of working with a similar population of students outside of the school system felt infused with so much promise and possibility. Working with college students, training them to use progressive teaching methodologies and giving them access and support to deliver an innovative curriculum was really exciting to me. I remember leaving the meeting feeling like this was a job that I would even consider doing for free. That was when I knew that VOICE was something that I needed to be a part of!
Amrita is a Program Manager at VOICE. She is originally from Bangalore.