ANEW: Training Ground for Women Auto-Rickshaw & Ambulance Drivers, Nurses and Web Designers
In a ground breaking move, Indian Air Force will be training women pilots in combat mode. Women are going places foraying into industries that were not considered suitable for women. Take for instance, Kayalvizhi. She is one among three daughters in a poor family hailing from Chennai. Thanks to ANEW, Kayalvizhi is also Chennai’s first woman ambulance driver making women all over Chennai very proud.“When we started in 1997, we wanted to train underprivileged girls as plumbers, electricians, nurses providing skill based learning,” shares Anu Chandran, President, ANEW. Started in a small garage with just 10 girls in 1997 by M.K.Kumar, Mrs. Lakshmi Kumar and Anu Chandran, ANEW began its classes with only nursing program due to infrastructural challenges. Over the years, computer training including DTP, Tally and web designing has been added on popular demand for ICT courses. Girls who get trained in computers usually complete their high school education or graduation. “Many of these girls were not interested in home nursing so we started computers,” adds Anu.
There are also cases where women enroll themselves and their daughters at ANEW. Chamundeshwari is also a woman who was hails from a poor family and was married off young. Separated from her husband after their daughter was born, she was determined to give herself and her daughter a good life. She trained herself at ANEW to become an auto driver. Now, she earns Rs.7000 employed as an auto driver in a school. Realising the value of economic independence, Chamundeshwari has enrolled her daughter who has completed her high school from a government school to ANEW’s training program.
The women who enroll in the driving classes are sent to Maruti Car School for initial training and licensing. They are then put through rigorous 3 months training to understand the geography of Chennai. The drivers get certified by ASI. And about 48% of the drivers that ANEW trains get employed across Chennai as van drivers, valet parking personnel and in Kayalvizhi’s case, even as ambulance driver.ANEW also offers optometry courses for girls who have cleared their higher secondary school examinations. Spoken English classes are mandatory for all who enroll for their classes. Since these women face several challenges in their personal lives, ANEW even has a counselor who addresses these women every week making their training more holistic. Except an initial registration fee of Rs.100, all the training programs are offered free of cost to these women. Registered as an NGO and run by a committee of 10 women, ANEW has trained more than 5000 girls so far in its different courses.
Initially, when ANEW was started, there were ample and more applicants who would apply for several courses at once. “We would have to reject them due to lack of infrastructure. Now women after 12Std, join the malls because they don’t need training and they can make quick money,” says Anu talking about some of the hurdles they face in bringing these women together for training. Seeing the trend of women moving to work in mall as unskilled laboue, ANEW started talking to corporation school girls before they pay their final exam fee about the courses offered.
“Over years, we have started approaching the final year college students. It helps them with certification. They are 20-22years old so they know what they want to do and must do,” adds Anu. Women who train to be home nurses and women with hearing impairment are also provided with a stipend of Rs.650 as travel allowance. Currently, ANEW trains 600-650 students every year. They intend to increase this to 1000 students every year.
“We encourage others to start organizations like ANEW in other parts of the country as well. We could also support them in starting. Women from economically backward background will ultimately become economically independent by getting employed by training in these institutes and that has always been our dream,” concludes Anu. True to that, Srivalli and her friend (both alumini of ANEW) have sponsored the training fee for a student who could not afford even the travel to attend the classes at ANEW. Like they say, help always finds those who can help themselves.Want to contribute to a student fee? Take a look at http://www.anewindia.org/index.html.