Girl Heroes: Shabham - technology trailblazer

Shabham refused to follow the expected path. Now she has a university education and is empowering other Indian girls to realise their potential

Girl Heroes is a new, regular feature that showcases inspiring girls who are making the girl effect a reality...

"I don't want to lead a life like my mother, where she is dependent on others financially. I want to be independent and learn on my own."

Those are the words of 19-year-old Shabham, who refused to follow the expected path and now - thanks to her determination - has a bright, financially secure future to look forward to.

Shabham and her family moved from a rural Indian village to Delhi 13 years ago. In the village being an educated, self-sufficient girl was a source of shame, not pride. Shabham's father wanted her to leave school, get married and stay at home, as younger relatives had done before her.

She persuaded her father to let her finish high school. But on graduating, she was told she must stay at home. Her father and brothers had constantly warned her of the 'dangers' of the outside world - believing they were keeping her safe - but their attitude left her terrified of meeting new people and going anywhere alone.

Changing attitudes. Changing lives

Shabham was left spending her days at home, with little to fill her time. Then a friend introduced her to Feminist Approach to Technology (FAT), an organisation supported by the Global Fund for Women offering free six-month computer courses.

India is full of technology companies, yet only 21 per cent of workers in the IT industry are women - FAT aims to change that. Before the course, Shabham had never used a computer before, but within three months she had applied to university and found a job at a telecoms company to help pay her tuition fees. Getting out of the house, meeting new people and - crucially - learning new skills, gave her the self-esteem she had been lacking.

Although her father originally refused to sign the permission slip letting her go to university, he now boasts to his friends about his university-educated daughter. Shabham now wants to teach other girls IT and encourage them to stay in school, saying: "In my village the girl relatives are talking about me and saying, 'Shabham finished 12th grade, so why can't I?' I want to help those girls who can't come out of their house."

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Read Lydia Holden's original piece on Shabham for Global Fund for Women

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