Give a Girl a Break…

With Heena at I Believe I Can. 20th March

I’vee been working with ETASHA for almost three years now, and I am very proud of our trainees, their work, their ambition and the changes they are making to their lives. Today brought a(nother) first for me – an all girl group(!) and this got me thinking about how ETASHA is impacting the lives of young women from disadvantaged communities in the country.

Take Henna. Just yet 20 years old, Heena’s parents are divorced. She lives with her mother, Medina and her younger brother and sister, in one room in Gautam Puri, a slum rehabilitation colony near Badarpur, South Delhi. Her family exists on an income of less than Rs6000 per month, with which they must pay rent, food, bills and clothing – everything, actually. Rs6000 to sustain and nurture a family of four. For many of us it’s the price of an evening out, a new phone, a pair of shoes. Medina provides for her entire family with that meagre amount each month.

Medina personifies the dichotomy of many poor women in India today. Strong and vulnerable, pragmatic but ambitious. Traditional yet forward thinking. She yearns for a better future for her children; for her son, for her daughters. And in Heena, Medina sees hope. With just a 10th pass education Heena joined ETASHA in 2008, training at our (then) small, one room centre in Gautam Puri (We have since opened two wonderful centres in Madanpur Khadar and Zakir Nagar). ETASHA trained her, securing her an interview with Vidkrish for a salary of Rs5500. Ambitious and quick to learn, Heena worked; she worked hard and harder still, moving up to become a cashier with retailer 6ten for a salary of Rs7000 – she was later promoted to store in charge.

She defied the constrictions placed on her by her gender, her culture and her class. In time, with greater experience and a growing confidence she took the next step and joined Giani as a store manager, where she works today. In two short years, Heena has more than doubled her family income. At 20, she already earns more than her mother ever had the chance to. And that’s just the beginning. Heena is just starting her career.

You may never have supported an organisation such as ours; you may already support other, bigger, more famous organisations. ETASHA is making real, sustainable change to society. It is lifting people out of poverty and into work. India has millions of young people in need of work. India HAS the jobs they need, yet those jobs remain vacant simply because we lack the adequate planning to put young people into them. Young Indians like Heena don’t want handouts; she would balk at charity. They just want the means to equip themselves to rise to the challenge of a global 21st century economy and grasp the opportunities that this amazing country has to offer.

It is because of Heena, and countless guys and gals like her, that I continue to love working for ETASHA, a love that is shared by my brilliant,brilliant colleagues. In our small way I believe we’re helping to change the lives of young people in need. I urge you to do the same. Support ETASHA. Support Change.


Watch Heena’s story in her own words at

3 thoughts on “Give a Girl a Break…”

  1. Ian, I couldn’t agree more! The store she is working in… is closer home… i keep going there to buy icecream! The way she conducts herself is amazing, making each customer feel special! I marvel at her perceptiveness, when my Dad went she offered him Rabri/Giani special, when my daughter pointed at a gelato she said the same flavour is in the normal one (instantly i thought – it is me who needs the gelatos more!!)

    Only recently the store was full, unfortuantely that day they were understaffed, she promptly got off her cashier cum store-incharge’s seat and with such swiftness she handled atleast 4 customers also apologized to them for the delay. I liked her presence of mind and smartness!

    Hoping to see Heena go places!

    BTW I like the snap!!


  2. I just couldn’t stop myself from commenting, Heena’s batch was my 1st batch & I always felt closest to them. Seeing them progress in life, improving not only theirs but their near family’s standard of living is really encouraging.
    I have also met her cousin, who wants to become like Heena, she is also pursuing her studies against her father’s wishes. This in the society they come from is commendable. All the best to them & Thanks to ETASHA to be a median to brighten some ones future & be a guiding light to many.

    I am proud to be associated to an organization that not only promises but delivers.

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