Global Reach: Grantee Partners

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In Mumbai slums, youth ages 15-24 constitute 50% of the population. One third of this population is marginalized youth who have been officially bracketed as Schedule Castes or Other Backward Castes and poor Muslims. Of these, 38% 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. As a consequence, they lack marketable skills to enter the formal workforce. In addition, violence against women is significant, which also increases the restrictions put on women and girls in accessing education and livelihood opportunities.


Akshara was founded in 1995 with the intent of forging a convergence between women’s movements and women’s studies in India. Akshara works with women and youth from different walks of life (youth in local colleges, young women living in slums) to promote gender equality and a violence-free society. Akshara’s core focus is the empowerment of women and girls, and it works with different stakeholders using multiple strategic approaches in order to achieve this.

Empowering Young Women and Men: By directly engaging with young women from disadvantaged backgrounds through financial assistance for higher education along with employability skills, Akshara hopes to foster a generation of women who are financially self-reliant and capable of resisting violence. Further, with the belief that men can also be champions of gender equality, Akshara works with young men in colleges, engaging them in gender equality campaigns, Safety Audits and innovative online campaigns. Akshara has also pioneered an interactive tool for furthering gender consciousness among youth through the format of a fun-fair, called the ‘Yuvak and Yuvati Mela’, which has become an extremely popular medium of engaging youth on gender issues in India.

Promoting Solutions: Akshara’s interventions with young men and women, along with raising public consciousness to prevent gender based violence and discrimination, coalesce into advocacy for a society that is safe and enabling for women and girls’ empowerment. Akshara is playing a key role in promoting preventive solutions and developing strategies for a ‘Gender Inclusive City’ with the Mumbai Municipal Corporation, transport authorities, police and State. Akshara is a leading voice in many national and regional networks which advocate for better laws against sexual violence, improved implementation and gender inclusion in local, state and national policies.

Research and Information Advocacy: Akshara conducted a 5000-person survey on sexual violence in public spaces, in collaboration with a leading newspaper, which led to advocacy and possibilities of multiple trainings including Barefoot Counseling Certificate Course, a training module for BEST bus transport officials, and an online website with resources to fight VAW. Akshara is a leading feminist voice in the Indian social media space, promoting the message of gender equality through its videos and online campaigns. Please see The Akshara Videos and Akshara’s facebook page for more details.

Akshara was awarded the Change Maker Award by Hindustan Times in 2013, eNGO Award for the online outreach and the Social Impact Award by the CSR Congress in 2014.

Current Grant:

EMpower’s 5th grant to Akshara enables adolescent girls to acquire technical, employability and leadership skills to become more 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.