Shraddha Maanu Foundation’s Project Trains Graduate Women To Become Changemakers

Did you know that school enrollment in Tamil Nadu is similar for both genders and is heartening at a rate of over 80%? According to a report published in 2019, when it comes to higher education, 49% of students enroll in graduation courses in the state, of which, 48.3% is female enrollment. 

Women who have completed their undergraduate degree account for about 15% of the state’s population. However, the employability of graduates in India is barely at 50% - an indication of the quality of college education across the country. Another peculiar issue that exists in India is that moderately educated women find it much harder to get jobs than their higher - or lower-educated counterparts. 

Equipping these women with the skills necessary to find sustainable employment can work wonders for their upliftment in the society and community. This is the space that Shraddha Maanu Foundation (SMF) works in, to empower marginalized graduate women to take up part-time jobs as after-school educators for underprivileged primary school children. 

Their project, named - UPASANA, is a multiple intelligence-based educator training programs that train graduate women to become ace after-school educators or edu-preneurs for primary classes.

The organization says, “As more women complete the program, they take up jobs at the VIPASANA micro centers that are set up in government/private low-income schools or with primary schools outside as assistant teachers, Some trained and certified women also opt to establish a VIPASANA micro center at their homes or nearby community centers. The number of children who are impacted at the grassroots level has increased over the years.” 

The UPASANA-certified educators impact 12-15 children in a batch across grades 1 to 5. In micro centers established at home or in community centers, they coach and mentor up to 10 children in a batch. The children at the VIPASANA micro centers are from underserved communities thus providing them with access to quality education. 

For their impactful work on the ground, the project won an award in the Women Empowerment category at the 8th CSR Impact Awards, India CSR Summit. This is Asia’s largest CSR Forum hosted by CSRBOX and Dalmia Bharat Foundation.

Hand-holding and empowering

Indian women have more access to education than before, but these women face diverse obstacles in their careers - lack of structural and emotional support, patriarchal oppression, limited access to training, and/or lack of awareness or confidence. 

The marginalized graduate women are eager to become financially independent, gain respect in their communities and homes, and contribute using the education that they have worked hard to achieve. 

A dipstick survey among graduate women at a LIG (Lower Income Group) tenement in Chennai, brought forward that most of the women were engaged in household work but yearned to become economically independent. However, they needed guidance and upskilling to achieve this. 

This was a portal to a world that changed the lives of many underprivileged women and shaped their future - Thus, was born UPASANA.

Changing lives

Addressing the fact that teachers play a pivotal part in the education system, the program not only guides and coaches the students academically but also shapes the child's future by building life skills in them. The organization endeavors to transform the lives of 150 marginalized graduate women every year who can go on to provide quality education and lifelong learning opportunities to primary school children from underserved communities.

Children at the VIPASANA microcenter

The organization says, “In the initial years we handhold and mentor them with the provision of necessary infrastructure, marketing material to  reach children in the neighborhood, structured content, and a salary.” 

The certified teachers are handheld for 2-3 years through mentoring and provision of a structured curriculum, infrastructure, and means to a livelihood. 

Currently,  SMF has 31 VIPASANA microcenters located in Chennai, Tirunelveli, Ramnad, and Tenkasi districts in Tamil Nadu. They are looking to increase it to 80-100 microcenters this year to impact 1800-2000 primary school children from low-income communities.

The women now have a resilient livelihood, and improved self-esteem, and are creating an impact in their family, neighborhood, and community.


Roshini Muthukumar

Roshini Muthukumar, a native of Chennai, started her career as a content writer but made a switch to journalism to pursue her passion. She has experience writing about human interest stories, innovative technology, entrepreneurs, research blogs, and more. Previously, Roshini has done internships with The Hindu, Metroplus and worked as a correspondent with The Better India.