Such small group workshops are just one part of the bigger Udayan Shalini Fellowship (USF), a fellowship which supports the higher education of disadvantaged girls which combines financial aid with capacity-building. In the North Delhi USF chapter (USF is in 10 cities across India!), the workshops are conducted on the first Sunday of every month with smaller groups of about 30-50 Fellows for more intimate interaction. While also teaching key skills, these workshops also are aimed at providing an opportunity to the Fellows, often highly introverted girls, to express their opinions. This results in making them more confident and forthcoming.
This time the subject matter at hand was Stress Management. In today’s pragmatic and competitive world, ‘stress’ is ingrained in our lives, especially in teenagers who constantly deal with peer pressure and stress related to family problems, academic performance, getting into a good college, etc. Therefore, the aim of this workshop was to make the fellows understand how stress affects our physical and mental well being as well as making them aware of the techniques for managing stress in their day to day lives.
Firstly, to encourage active participation, the fellows were asked to name any activity or hobby which acted as a stress buster for them. The answers ranged from dancing, listening to music and reading to methods like writing poetry, watching cricket matches and even sleeping! All in all it was a fun activity which ended with all of us singing ‘ALL IS WELL’ from 3 Idiots! (That is another stress buster!)
After this, the Fellows split into two groups, with myself taking one group and Shalu Ma’am taking the others. There were around 30-40 girls in my group, girls who had recently passed out school.
Unanimously it was decided that since they are just entering into their college life, I would give them some tips and suggestions of how to introduce themselves in college or even while applying to internships or jobs. I was surprised to see how perceptive the girls were. At first shy, they soon let go their inhibitions, opening up to me and actively participating, sharing their background, hobbies, interests, skills and ambitions. When they came to know that I was pursuing my graduation from Delhi University, they became inquisitive and asked me all about cut-offs, the admission process, good colleges, my experience at first day in college and how difficult it was for me to move into a new city away from home.
It was an exhilarating experience for me to interact with such ambitious and wonderful girls. In spite of all the difficulties and problems that came in their way, they never gave up hope and worked diligently towards their goals, never looking back.
I would not be lying if I said that I was a little nervous at first about interacting with them personally, wondering whether I could win their affection and trust. But the warmth with which they accepted me in their family made me feel as if I had known them for ages. By the end, I realised that how important this workshop turned out for me, how it has helped me to not only improve my communication and social skills but also grow as a person.
Udayan Shalini Fellowships derives its name from conjoining two Sanskrit words “Udayan” and “Shalini” meaning eternal sunrise and a dignified woman respectively. It thus symbolises an eternal sunrise to a dignified life for a girl, who otherwise would have fallen out on the way. I am proud to say that these girls have truly turned out to be ‘Shalinis’ in a true sense and I look forward to more such interactions and workshops.
About the Author: Anukansha is an intern working with our Udayan Shalini Fellowship Program. She is a college student, currently pursuing her Bachelor's Degree in Economics at Delhi University.