Hidden deep in the outskirts of Kolkata, a far drive down dusty roads, past the industrial areas of Garden Reach and Kidderpore and on the banks of the Hooghly River, you arrive at the Muslim community of Metiabruz. A visitor and outsider to Metiabruz, you jump off the bus into a jostling market. Keeping your eyes lowered but peeled so as not to attract any more attention to yourself than necessary, you quickly make your way to your final destination. Three flights of stairs later, you stop at the door marked with an Anudip Foundation logo. Relieved and thankful that you made it there smoothly, you take a deep breath before entering. You step into a room with 12 backs facing you, hunched over computers and typing away. You see 20 more people working on computers in a room further inside but it’s not long before someone notices you and an echo of “good morning ma’am” reaches your ears, greeting your sweaty self and putting a smile on your face. You wash your hands of the germs from public transportation, take a long swig of water and get yourself mentally prepared for the class you’ll be teaching in 15 minutes.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays I travel approximately one hour to Metiabruz where Anudip runs a skills training center and a data BPO (business process outsourcing) for women. There, I co-teach an English and life-skills development class to about 18 employees of our BPO. Both challenging and inspiring, I struggle to work in a community where women are under-valued and neglected but continue to stand up for each other. Where community members feel threatened by the skills training our women are receiving and the independence they’re getting a taste for. I work with women who have attitude and sass, who are young and naive but have already lived through so much and have so many stories to share. Most of these women are between the ages of 20-25 who have already completed college or are completing it simultaneously while working. For the most part, they’ve never traveled outside of Kolkata let alone outside of West Bengal. Before Anudip started working with these women, many of their families would not even allow them to travel outside of their neighborhood (Metiabruz), but over the last year, we’ve seen some changes. Along with relative economic empowerment, families have begun to trust Anudip. They’ve realized that allowing their daughters/sisters/wives to work and earn money is beneficial for the entire family in the long run.