Neelam was 18 years old and came to our two week manicure and pedicure course in October 2011. She is from Bandup slum north east of Mumbai and could not read or write. Her mother and father deserted her when she was small, so she lives with her aunt and uncle. They often tell her she is worth nothing, that they are tired of her, say they would send her away to other relatives, but nobody else would have her. She had very low self-esteem, and would look at the ground while talking to you. While attending the course, we also helped Neelam to develop her literacy. We provided one-to-one support and put in place a plan to teach her to read and write her name confidently. While with us Neelam worked particularly hard, arriving to class early and staying late to learn all she could. She had 100% attendance and passed her class on Friday 4th November. Like all the girls she was given a manicure and pedicure kit, a uniform and a certificate.
Neelam set out herself to find work, and after many rejections after being rejected many times due to living in a slum she finally found a job close to her home, working in a beauty parlour, as a cleaner. Once she had gained her confidence, she told her boss she was trained to provide manicure and pedicures. Her boss called her a liar. She explained that a ‘lady from London’ had trained her. Despite producing her certificate she was still met with disbelief!
Neelam was finally offered a chance to demonstrate her skill, she had acquired some expertise on the course and was promoted to beauty therapist. While there she has been taught facials and eyebrow shaping, and Neelam has passed on her skills to other girls and is helping them to get work.
When we went back to visit the girls in April 2012, Neelam’s success and determination became a huge source of inspiration to the students who all face many different challenges. She told them that she had been unable to read or write her name when arriving for her first day in class and her peers have all seen her overcome obstacles through her hard work and determination, and Neelam has presented them all with an empowering example to follow.
Uganda 2012 All about Mary.