Veipune Sarah: Turning oppression into opportunity

An alumna of the Northwest Community College Initiative (NWCCI), Veipune Sarah from India earned a certificate from Whatcom Community College in business management administration in 2014. Since she returned to India, Veipune Sarah has been determined to raise awareness around the lack of education for women in her community in northern rural India. She has volunteered as an Ambassador for the Half the Sky organization and collaborated with the Naotoumai Rural Development Association (NRDA) to reach her goals. Here Veipune Sarah blogs about how her experience volunteering in the U.S. led her to institute community change in her own region.

DSCN6466It was in the summer 2013 when I first came to the United States through a scholarship program from the U.S Department of State. This program impacted my career not only because of the opportunity that I was able to travel to many popular cities in the United States, but for making me who I am today. In the beginning of my program, I was very shy in nature and often hesitated to make new friends since I was from a collectivist culture. However, after meeting many new friends from different countries, I was able to communicate more confidently. I joined student organizations like the International Friendship Club, the Service Learning Club, and the Business Club to mingle with American friends and improve my English skills.

Among the clubs, the Service Learning Club was the best.  We volunteered at different events for the community, and helped out. I was really inspired seeing that people were so keen to work for the community for free.  In my community, it is very rare to find people who wish to volunteer unless they are paid. As an NWCCI program requirement, we were mandated to volunteer. However, it made me feel good working for the community, so I worked every time I got opportunity and I volunteered 72 hours total.

Last year, when I returned home from the United States, I decided to continue volunteering for the community in my home town. Therefore, I made an announcement in the church regarding volunteer activities to be held every Saturday. I stressed the importance of volunteering by taking the examples of the U.S. On the first day of volunteering, I was surprised to see that only females were present to volunteer, and almost every one of them was illiterate. They have no proper jobs because they don’t have an education or enough qualifications. As a result, they have to earn on a daily wage basis for their living at a young age; it made me feel miserable seeing women in deplorable conditions, facing hardship in my community. Therefore, I thought I should do something different and bring changes in my community by uplifting women’s lives.

Many parents believe that educating women is a waste of their family’s wealth due to the reason that women become somebody’s flesh when they get married. However, I believe that this context is misunderstood by many parents in my community. Women can do many good things when they are educated, not only stay at home and take care of household chores. Development doesn’t only come from men; it has a huge impact on women as well. When women are educated, they can teach their children at home, and also they could work and earn more income for their household. In my community, many female children have to give up their education after high school because their parents cannot support them. Another reason is that their parents don’t encourage girls’ education. Therefore, I collaborated with a few local non-government organizations who are working on related issues to change women’s oppression into opportunity together in our community.

Whatcom_SarahThe first event that I conducted with my team member was to evaluate the women’s vision. We did some interesting activities that compelled them to participate and interact with one another, as many of them were introverted. First of all, we did a video screening on how capable women can be and that they could be one of them. They were inspired by the video and started to raise questions about how they can achieve their goals like the girls in the video. Then we had an interactive session discussing their dreams and encouraging them never to stop chasing after their dreams. We had the women list their dreams on a piece of paper and had them explain in front of the group. In the beginning, they were very hesitant, but eventually they were all lively participants.

To sum up, I’m really thankful to the U.S Department for giving me an opportunity to go to the U.S and learn so many things that I never anticipated I would. I was inspired while volunteering for the community and wanted to continue doing it in my community to bring changes. However, after seeing the depleted condition of women in my community, I wanted to change their oppression into opportunity.

The NWCCI program is part of the Community College Initiative, an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.


The opinions expressed in this blog by writers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Northwest Community College Initiative program, Edmonds Community College, Whatcom Community College, Pierce College, the United States Department of State or any employee thereof. NWCCI and Edmonds Community College are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied by the student bloggers.

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