Teach for India is one of the best-known fellowship programmes in our country. Here, one can really give back to society by teaching children living in slum areas of metropolitan cities. Not just that, it also has a great percentage of women taking up the fellowship, says Romana Shaikh, the Training Manager (Literacy & Design) of the programme.

But Romana also pointed out the downside to it. Sadly, not many women who join continue in the development sector after the fellowship.

“In fact, the percentage of women who stay back is lower than men. The reasons are the usual of home responsibility, needing to run a family, job, etc. And I don’t know if it is as much about money as it is about time as development sector jobs are more time intensive than corporate,” said Romana. She also talked about men taking up the fellowship and said “that as far as men are concerned, they find it harder to join the
fellowship”.

The reason for men not joining the fellowship is that it cuts straight two years of having a corporate or a normal job. “A lot of men have families who do not support them but those who do join the fellowship, they end up staying. There are many more men who are in the social entrepreneurship field right now, after the fellowship, than
women,” elucidated Romana.

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Many women who join also go back to their previous jobs but there is a great percentage who stay with Teach For India as teachers, tells Romana. “The idea of taking a pay cut for passion and purpose is beginning to show in a pretty strong trend across our graduates.”

Talking about the pressure of getting educated among young boys and girls, she said that each community is different, based on various factors like parenting, caste, religion, etc. A lot of parents want their children to be educated but Teach For India still faces issues like girls dropping out after Class 8 to get married, they drop out because of no toilets in schools.

Romana believes that there is a shift in mindset in girls getting educated, but the old tradition of girls getting married early and not be educated still exists in society.

Even in urban India, all the orthodox expressions of having to choose between who will get education — girl and boy — is still there.

She revealed about her own experience being a fellow and then working for Teach For India by saying that it is pretty gender-balanced in staff. “In fact, we have more women than men across the board. We have a good balance in our senior-leadership team so our CEO, Shaheen, is a woman. Organically, we have built a balanced community of men and women working there together.”

Romana added, “It’s been a place full of learning. It’s a very creative, thriving, idea-driven place. There is a lot of autonomy to do what you want and support to take risks and to be innovative. That is what really allowed me to grow.”

Picture credit- Livemint