By Ridha; one of the Jugaad Lab Leaders

Ridha is one of six young women leaders who help run the Jugaad Lab, a technology center for girls and young women run by our partner project Feminist Approach to Technology (F.A.T.)

“I have learnt how to use a Hex machine, drills and heat guns in F.A.T. I used to think these tools should be handled by boys but I learnt that they can be used by everyone! That gave me confidence. Now, at home when there is a need for technical assistance, I do it instead of my brother. STEM is not scary anymore!”

This is Ridha’s story:

Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to go out of my house much. At our home, there were many restrictions on the mobility of me and my sisters. Each day, we would go to school and spend the rest of the day within the four walls of our home either doing household chores or studying. My brothers didn’t have such restrictions.

My father is an autorickshaw driver. When I passed 12th standard, he told me he couldn’t pay for my graduation. In 2020, I started looking for doing something that would provide me with money. I applied to teach Girls in STEM participants in the Online School Education Support System at F.A.T. I would teach all subjects as per the participants’ needs. We started but I realised some parents were hesitant to send their children due to Covid-19 so we went online for classes. F.A.T. supported me in this by providing me with a tablet so that I could continue teaching the participants from my home.

To continue my work, this year I joined the Young Women Leadership Programme Level-3 and my engagements with the Girls in STEM team increased. My regular interactions with STEM has allowed me to explore and learn more about STEM. I come from a background where girls don’t have much knowledge about technical fields. I also got to learn about social problems in the country and the way inequality exists in different forms.

Often, women and girls are unaware of their rights which prevents them from protesting against an unjust situation. I can relate because I, too, was hesitant about exploring and learning more. I felt as if I was doing wrong in the eyes of society. Earlier, I was very conscious of the way I would dress or the way I would walk because society’s gaze would bother me. Joining F.A.T. helped me become more confident about myself.

Ridha is one of six young women leaders who help run the Jugaad Lab, a technology center for girls and young women run by our partner project Feminist Approach to Technology (F.A.T.)

My motive as a ‘Level 3 leader’ is to bring such a change in my own community. Most girls in my community will study a little and then get married after they turn 18. Such thinking actually prevents them from wanting to study further. They have sadly accepted their fate. I want to break this vicious chain.  Girls should not “just get married and raise a family”. That’s not where our aspirations should end. I want them to do a lot more in their life! Becoming financially independent should be a priority so that they will be able to make their own decisions. Also, parents should stop telling their children that “this is a girl’s job and this is a boy’s job”. There’s no such thing! Both girls and boys can do all tasks equally and I have realised that through my own journey.