Thursday, May 30, 2013

A wonderful day of women's empowerment

When twelve women from the Mumbai neighborhood of Vikhroli arrived at the JDC India offices in South Mumbai, there was an immediate feeling of camaraderie and friendship. The women, mostly single and aged in their early twenties, came to participate in a series of ‘life skills’ workshops organized as the corroborative brainchild of the staff of local NGO REAP ( and the JDC-GPM Internship fellows.

As part of the goal of empowering women living in slum communities and its literacy movement for empowerment, REAP supports women rights by providing opportunities for women to acquire skills as decision-making, self-reliant, assertive, fully liberated change-agents in their communities.  The JDC-GPM interns, participants in an exciting four-month long volunteer opportunity for young Jewish Indian professionals and undergraduate students working in the slums, designed a day-long “Communication, Confidence, Leadership” series of workshops for the REAP women in order to teach communication skills and encourage confidence building among young promising women leaders from the slum community.

The day opened with the Vikhroli women of REAP arriving at JDC with REAP supervisor Mrs. Vanita Magre and meeting the JDC-GPM interns. After snacks and getting to know one another, the JDC staff and interns led workshops on life skills and career advancement tools. JDC-GPM Intern Jennifer Jacob was instrumental in leading sessions on non-verbal and verbal communication and the women participated in a valuable job interview techniques session led by JDC fellow Tahl Mayer. Jacob and Mayer led sessions on resume building and insights in communication preferences and skills including performing a comprehensive Myers-Briggs Personality Test with all participants. The day’s events were facilitated by JDC-GPM interns Nikita Worlikar and Eliana Phansapurkar as well as JDC volunteers, Mr. and Mrs. Samson and Diana Korlekar. REAP director Trevor Miranda made a surprise visit and participated with the group during the career development sessions.

The public speaking exercise was very popular with the women who enjoyed the opportunity and encouragement to speak openly about issues that are important to them; issues around women’s empowerment rights and education. According to Salome Abraham, JDC Youth Coordinator, ‘the women seemed to be eager to speak out and voice their opinions and appreciated the platform and encouragement to express themselves in a professional manner.”

The day was a testament to the hard work of REAP, the JDC-GPM Interns and the inspiring women from Vikhroli. Real change comes from communities getting together and giving each other a helping hand. Lasting change comes from grassroots support of vulnerable communities. Continued change comes from continual support of socially inspired programs like these. Based on the success of the experience, more workshops are being organized by REAP and the JDC on an ongoing basis.

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