“Doing what I do gives me a great sense of pride,” says 23-year-old Priyanka Ghanghav, adding, “I enjoy every bit of it.” Priyanka, who works as an assistant electrician at SMS Integrated Facility Services Ltd, at Sanpada, Navi Mumbai, is responsible for many different services such as maintenance of the electric supply, water meter reading, fault correction, etc. Admired and supported by her colleagues at work, Priyanka brims with confidence as she proudly takes home a salary that contributes to the family income. However, just a year earlier, Priyanka was a young, timid woman with an air of melancholy about her.
The school of hard knocks
Both of Priyanka’s parents had emigrated to Mumbai after their marriage. Her father had obtained a job as a bus driver, while her mother, a very young bride from Beed in central Maharashtra, sought work as a housemaid to supplement the household income. Soon, with three extra mouths to feed, survival became a bigger challenge. Just as they were struggling to get by, tragedy struck. Priyanka’s father died in a bus accident, and her mother was hard put to feed her children and educate them. Yet, she still instilled in them the importance of being independent and making something of their lives.
That rough childhood following her father’s death had toughened Priyanka and thrust the responsibility of a family on her young shoulders. Having studied until the 12th standard, Priyanka hoped to get a job but didn’t know how to go about it. One day, she saw some of her neighbours, smartly dressed in uniforms, and asked them where they were going. They told her about Tata STRIVE, and chatted happily about how they would soon get jobs. Intrigued about the facility and the prospect of being able to get a job and provide for her family, Priyanka hesitantly made her way to the Tata STRIVE Skill Development Centre at Airoli.
A door opens
At STRIVE, the Assistant Electrician programme caught Priyanka’s eye. She had watched her brother fix fuses, do electrical wiring, and repair electrical fixtures and for a fleeting moment, “Why can’t I do this?” crossed her mind. However, while discussing course options with a Tata STRIVE counsellor, who was advising her on the various courses and their corresponding career paths, Priyanka hesitated, sure that she wouldn’t be able to become an electrician because she was a woman. The counsellor was nonplussed. “I’m a woman, and I teach this course,” she told Priyanka. “What makes you think you cannot study it?” This was just the impetus that Priyanka needed.
She rushed home to tell her mother, half-afraid that the latter would dissuade her from joining the course. Much to her surprise, her mother was fully supportive of anything she wished to do. And Priyanka happily enrolled in the programme.
A crisis of self-confidence
On the first day of the course, however, Priyanka was taken aback when she realised she was only one of two women in a classful of men. She began to feel the brunt of having enrolled in a non-conventional course, on a fast-track to a career-path that was traditionally male. All the other girls she knew were choosing conventional women-oriented careers like retail. Worse, Amruta, the only other girl in class, quit the course midway. Already second-guessing her decision, Priyanka began to keep mostly to herself, not talking to anyone. Her self-confidence, already shaky, was beginning to hit a new low.
Three months passed, and suddenly, things seemed to change for the better. She was the brightest student in the class, and soon became its most participative. She was beginning to bloom as a person as well, taking on projects, representing the class on visits, volunteering to present concepts to people and excelling in practicals. Her talent, determination to do well, and her sheer love of the work she was doing, were perfectly complemented by the Youth Development Modules that helped her open up and groom herself.
Priyanka gratefully attributes this to the facilitators who supported her throughout. But her biggest cheerleaders were the boys in her class. They had gone from being strangers to family. Priyanka was soon treating them like her brothers. “They always took care of me,” she says, “they wanted me to get a good job and succeed.”
And succeed she did.
A success story
After 17 weeks of intensive training, Priyanka began work as an assistant electrician at SMS Integrated Facilities, the company she continues to work at, today. She was the first female electrician they hired, and even today, is the only woman electrician there. But Priyanka thoroughly enjoys her job and says that she has had nothing but support and admiration from her male colleagues.
Breaking conventions and discovering her true talent was just the beginning of Priyanka’s transformation into being a strong, independent woman who is open to new experiences. When she walked into the centre, all she wanted was to enrol in a course, get a job and support her family. Today, Priyanka has proven that grit and determination, coupled with the rock-solid training that Tata STRIVE provides, can take you further than even your own expectations.