Ipsha Samaj Kalyan Kendra in Patna is helping women become independent by conducting different training courses.
Indu Singh has been a teacher her entire life. For 25 years, she has been regularly interacting with parents, especially mothers of her students, to discuss their children’s academic progress and to know more about them. During these conversations, Indu realized that it was not only children who were in need of education but their mothers too.
“Most of the mothers were housewives and hardly anyone had pursued education beyond the Class 10. While talking to them, I felt that they needed some purpose; some motivation in their lives. They needed to be encouraged to do something, to learn something that would be beneficial for them in the long run,” says the 56-year-old.
With this goal, she resigned as the principal of her school in 2012, to start a vocational training institute for women, called the Ipsha Samaj Kalyan Kendra.
Indu researched different courses and finally started a training course for women to become nursery class teachers. Since then, the organisation has grown multifold and now provides tailoring and computer courses as well. Including seven committee members, the Kendra has about 20 members in all and is located in Patna.
According to Ipsha’s official website, “The name Ipsha stands for Infinite, Potentiality, Significance, Hospitality and Awesome as the institute believes that women have infinite power and potential for growth. Their significance in the growth of society cannot be ignored and their innate hospitality towards nature equips them to give awesome results.”
So far over 600 women have been trained at the institute. Aside from training women, the institute helps them find employment by contacting schools and scheduling interviews for them. These women are also taught interview skills and professional etiquette.
In addition to that, the institute has set up a small manufacturing unit where women make clothes and supply them to the local market. This way, students get hands-on training while also being able to earn some money.
Smita Sharma, who recently completed the tailoring course and is now pursuing the teacher training course, says that she found new confidence after coming to Ipsha.
“I had always wanted to become a teacher. However, I wasn’t sure if I coulddo it. I joined Ipsha for the tailoring course. While pursuing the course, I met Indu ma’am andtold her about my wish to become a teacher. She encouraged me to take up the teacher training course and now my dream is about to come true.”
Bina Devi has a similar story to share. Bina was a housewife who had a knack for tailoring. Self-taught, she would take up tailoring jobs on and off but it never turned into anything permanent.
“Two years ago, I enrolled into Ipsha and completed the tailoring course. Now I am teaching the same course. The whole experience has given me so much confidence and positivity,” she says.
When asked how the institute raises funds for its activities, Singh explained that they don’t have steady support from donors. The institute had received some furniture and sewing machines from the Punjab National Bank when it was founded. Since then, the funds to run the organisation have come through fees paid by students.
“However, since most women pursuing courses at our institute come from economically-weaker sections, we cannot charge them a very high amount. The fees for a three-month tailoring course is Rs 1,000, while a year-long teacher training course costs Rs 12,000. For those who can’t afford that, there’s a subsidised fee of Rs 5,000,” says Singh.
In order to raise more funds, the institute runs coaching classes for school students.
“Funding has been a major issue throughout the years. We are constantly worried about being able to make rent and pay salaries. However, what keeps us going is the tremendous zeal with which women have responded to our initiative. They are getting educated, becoming more aware and independent. Slowly, we can see a community building among these women, who help and stand by each other,” says Indu.
The institute doesn’t just provide vocational training to women, it also conducts part-time educational programs for underprivileged children.“Even though these children go to government schools, they often need additional inputs. We provide them that by conducting periodic workshops,” says Indu.
When asked about the organisation’s future plans, she enthusiastically responds, “We are soon going to start more courses such as beautician training, retail store management as well as cooking and bakery classes!”