I was always fond of books and would secretly read novels when nobody else was around. I always wished to be a teacher but couldn’t go to school and was given only religious education at home. And then I was married at 12 and got divorced by 16! I had children as well. Life was hard. But a local study centre (Sehar Study Centre) that was opened by Shabnam Baji (Shabnam Hashmi) in Nizamuddin Basti brought a ray of hope to my life. My struggle did not end there. I had to fight against all odds but I stood firm. I graduated and later worked as a teacher. Shabnam Baji gave me and other women who studied at the centre, wings to fly.
This is the story of Farida Khan. Today she runs the organization ‘Pehchan’. Realizing the importance of Sehar Study Centre in her life, she wanted to help create opportunities for women like her. She started the study centre in Jaitpur Extension, near Okhla in New Delhi in 2011. Pehchan aims to encourage marginalized women to complete their formal education.
While in sitting in her office she told me about the high dropout rates in the capital especially among Muslim women. I was curious to know Why the girls dropout?. To which she calmly answered that most girls come from an economically weak background and hence cannot afford formal schooling. Also parents are insecure about sending their girls, if schools are far away and some think that education will spoil them! She told me the story of her student Aaliya. She had studied till 8th standard and her father did not allow her to study further. Teachers at pehchan went and convinced her father. And she passed her 10th boards with second division! Farida said that this is just one success story, there have been many and a lot more to come.”
At pehchan, they identify girls who are school dropouts and encourage them to come to their centre and complete their formal school education. Some of them are now even going to college to pursue further studies.
The girls are also given vocational training like stitching and cutting at the centre.
But the beauty of pehchan is not that they help these girls complete their education but in Farida’s words giving them “Ek Nayi Pehchan” (giving them new Identity). Pehchan aims to empower these girls in all aspects. And along with regular subjects they teach them concepts of equality, freedom and educate them about their rights. They are taken to attend various conventions, seminars and workshops to help them expand their horizons and make them strong, confident women.
Pehchan has worked for about 4 years now. And there are a lot of success stories. Over 30 girls have passed their 12th from Pehchan study centre so far. A new centre at Nizamuddin has been opened to help school drop-outs from Nizamuddin Basti and Kale Khan. The organization aims to expand to other areas in Delhi and help marginalized women fulfill their dreams.
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