35% of the urban poor in India are below poverty levels- living in one room with no attached toilets.

11% women headed households are poor because of low education and informal employment. So preference is given to the son’s education and the daughter is given domestic chores.

 2 in 5 girls get married before the legal age of 18 years. 6,000 adolescent mothers die every year.

 41% girls drop out of school by the 8th class and stay at home. Two thirds of all girls are not allowed mobility.

23% of women have higher to graduate level education.

 2 in 5 women are anaemic. 




This is my story – who I am, what happened in my life, and what I did for myself. There are very possibly hundreds, if not thousands, of girls like me in the city and country. But I think my story needs to be told just so others may know of it. My family: my parents, me and my two brothers, live in a basti (slum) in a small room. The neighbourhood is a maze of small and cluttered lanes, with rooms on either side. We use a public toilet and are fortunate to have an electric and water connection within the house, even though the water or a couple of bucketfuls is only available in the morning.

We were comfortable because my father was a peon in the court and my mother worked a few odd jobs. All of us went to the nearby free municipal school. But, as life would have it, my father passed away and everything changed. We could only just manage to survive. My brother was sent to college and I was asked to stay at home. After all, I was told, I was old enough to get married. I wanted to say, “Hey listen, I don’t want to get married. I want to go to college, meet people, learn and hope to get a better job, not do domestic work like my mother.”

My mother was reluctant she was afraid of the groups of boys hanging around at the street corners, of our relatives taunting us, or neighbours whispering behind our backs. I too am scared of my own dreams. My mother is right, I don’t have the self confidence. I could never go out to play in the park or stand up and speak to the teacher. What would I do if a boy stalked me? Perhaps its better that I stay at home. But my dreams kept returning. I would like to be an accountant or a reporter or be an event organiser.

My neighbour Maushi came to my rescue. She introduced me to Akshara. Her daughter had been there and had liked it. Akshara made me fill out a form and interviewed me. Now my mother had to change her views, as I got my full college fees from them. But I had to convince her to let me attend their workshops. Suddenly I found myself taking charge of my life! I wanted to finish college, seek work, improve my health, and choose my own partner.

Akshara supports girls like Sonali rewrite their lives.
Here’s how:

No to early marriage. Yes to education.      
Our educational scholarships help girls to complete their formal education. Every year we support 150-200 girls to finish school, junior or senior college.

Empowering girls and young women with skills.
We run basic computer, English speaking and Tally courses. Girls learn resume writing, giving job interviews, opening bank accounts. They understand their bodies: nutrition, contraception and sexuality.

No more violence on women.
They learn how to resist sexual harassment on the streets and in college. Take social actions to prevent violence in their neighbourhoods and in society.