Global Reach: Grantee Partners

Book Fold



In Mumbai slums, youth in the age range 15-24 constitute 50% of the population. One third of this population are marginalized youth who have been officially bracketed as Schedule Castes, Other Backward Castes or poor Muslims. 38% of people living in slums are young women who have received less than 10 years of formal education. Mumbai poses unique challenges to delivering quality education to the urban poor - first generation learners with limited access to public secondary schools. Girls in slums are deprived of post-secondary school education due to the lack of availability of vocational/skill education and socio-economic barriers which restrict their educational opportunities. In addition, girls are expected to contribute to the household at a very young age – with the implicit understanding that a girl is being trained for a role as a wife, mother and daughter-in-law, whereas boys are being trained for an occupation. Girls get married younger than boys, and families often think that the cost of education is wasted on a girl because it has no economic function as she will go to her in-laws’ home. Even if they continue to study, the absence of opportunities, role models, family and community support curtails their ability to find jobs. For the girls who work, most follow their mothers and at a very young age are pigeonholed into certain jobs in the informal sector as domestic helpers, cleaners and daily wage workers. They find it difficult to question and change societal/cultural norms and views related to their employment and lack the basic education and marketable skills to enter the formal workforce that is more remunerative and provides better economic and legal protection than informal jobs.


Founded in 1995 with the goal of strengthening the capacity of women and youth to promote gender equality and human rights, Akshara works with women and youth. It provides leadership development workshops, a free library, and online courses in gender studies to empower women at the individual and community level to challenge and prevent gender based violence and discrimination. Akshara aims to change the laws and norms which lead to the discrimination of women (for example, advocating for a sexual harassment law, alongside other groups). It also works to empower women to access their rights and works with young men to prevent violence and support women in their struggles. It supports youth in taking up campaigns and actions to bring about changes in their schools, on the streets, and helps address family and inter-generational barriers to women’s advancements. Their lifeskills program focuses on empowering resource-poor young women to increase their employability by developing their knowledge, technical skills, abilities and attitudes so that they can access training, skills and opportunities to get fulltime jobs in formal sectors which will improve their agency, income generation capacities and make them financially independent. Founders Nandita Shah and Nandita Gandhi are renowned feminists from the women’s movement in India, both hold PhD’s in sociology and are active in civil society to change gender norms and campaign for equality.

Current Grant:

EMpower’s 7th grant to Akshara will enable 80 young women to acquire technical, employability and mentorship support to become competitive in the formal workforce

Akshara from EMpower on Vimeo.

You can support our work with Akshara and our other grantee partners.

Our Underwriters pay for all of our administrative and fundraising costs, so 100% of your donation goes directly to empowering at-risk youth.