April 05, 2020
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Terminal Transformation

A computer course costing Re 1 a day has enabled many girls to earn their bread

Terminal Transformation
When Som Trivedi began a computer training centre for girls in a poor Muslim locality in Kanpur, he wasn’t sure what kind of response he would get. For the first few months, there were no takers. Only a few young girls, mainly the children of coolies who work in the nearby railway station and tanners in the leather factory, ventured inside.

But with the help of his team, project coordinator Ujjwala Subhedar, community liaison Mohammad Sharif and mobiliser Noor Begum, he slowly made progress. Recalls Sharif: "We had to go door-to-door and bring the parents here, show them this was a safe place for their daughters. We explained that a three-month course here—which costs just Re 1 a day—would give them a chance to earn Rs 4,000-5,000 a month."

Kaynat Ahmad is a confident, smiling 18-year-old. When she started on the course, she was very shy. "I used to keep running away from the centre." She used to make Rs 300 a month teaching at a local school. After the course, Trivedi and his team got her a job as a data entry operator at a large export company. "Now I make Rs 3,000 a month and can support my sick mother and two younger sisters. My sisters will also study at the institute," she adds proudly.

Trivedi runs the centre for Datamation, an NGO, which has partnered with Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential Programme to build these centres. They’ve also managed to revolutionise one of UP’s oldest cottage industries, chikankari. Using the expertise from IIT Kanpur and the NIFT, they’ve created software that allows chikankari workers to create their patterns on computers, vastly increasing their productivity. Zubeida, a 25-year-old whose family has been in the industry for generations, agrees. "Once I learnt to design on a computer, it made everything that much faster. Intricate patterns that would take an hour now takes five or six minutes. If I earlier earned Rs 1,000 a month, now I can easily take home three times that amount."

Microsoft funds 500 such centres across the country, working with partners on different fields. So far, some 23,000 have graduated from their courses. Dr Vikas Goswami, head of community affairs, Microsoft India, says, "We believe we understand information technology best. With the increase in the role of computers, the levels of marginalisation of those on the wrong side of the digital divide is increasing. This programme is our way of ensuring we don’t leave people behind."

Contact Datamation Foundation Charitable Trust, L-213, Sector L, LDA Colony, Jail Road, Bangla Bazar, Lucknow—226012

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