Avery Dennison Corporate / “Our standard of living has changed”

“Our standard of living has changed”

The Avery Dennison Foundation supports scholarships that help young women in India stay in school and launch careers.

In observance of International Women’s Day, the Avery Dennison Foundation is proud to affirm its commitment to funding programs that empower women, and to share this story of how Foundation-supported scholarships in India are helping to lift young women out of poverty.

When Devika and Kusuma sat down five years ago to take a routine high school achievement test, the two young women from outside Bangalore might not have sensed that a door was opening for them. But at a time in their lives when many girls in India drop out of school, Devika and Kusuma’s test scores qualified them for a scholarship the name of which means “opportunity” in Hindi, and which offered them a way through the economic and cultural barriers that held back many women before them.

Created especially for families living in extreme poverty, The Avasar Scholarship Program provides education, training, and mentorship to academically capable girls from age 14 through college and beyond, providing support until the scholars become employed. The scholarships help ensure that the girls stay in school by paying school fees and expenses — for supplies, clothing, transportation, and meals — that their families might not otherwise be able to afford. In addition to attending school, scholarship recipients gather monthly to socialize, learn work-related skills, and receive coaching from working professionals.

“Our mission is to lift underprivileged women up the social ladder and, and in many cases, out of the cycle of poverty,” says Anand Chaturvedi, founder and managing trustee of The Avasar Foundation. “Our vision is that this will lead to lasting impact for subsequent generations.”

Students in Varthur, a suburb of Bangalore, take an achievement test to qualify for Avasar scholarships.

Kusuma, now 21, describes the benefits she has gained from the program as career guidance, greater confidence, experience living independently, knowledge of computers, a grasp of basic English, and, she says, “meeting inspiring people from around the world.”

“The scholarship has given financial strength to my education and to my personal life,” she said. “It has also reduced my parents’ burden and made them feel so happy and proud.”

Devika, 22, says the scholarship helped her focus on her studies by reducing her financial worries. What’s more, “meeting new people and attending the workshops helped me develop my confidence. Digital literacy courses helped develop my computer knowledge, and a speech class helped me improve my communication skills.”

As with many other initiatives that the Avery Dennison Foundation supports, local Avery Dennison employees take part in the Avasar program, volunteering their time to teach business and interpersonal skills and to mentor students. Shalini Rana, GPD Manager for Avery Dennison’s Retail Branding and Information Solutions in India, points to the positive ripple effect that comes from keeping girls in school.

“When we invest in the education of a young woman, we educate not just an individual but a whole family, and thereby society as a whole,” she said.

Teachers and past Avasar scholarship recipients at a school in Immadihalli, outside Bangalore.

The Avasar program is operated by the Opportunity Foundation Trust, a corporate foundation similar to the Avery Dennison Foundation that is operated by employees of  Expeditors, a global logistics company. Anand Chaturvedi of The Avasar Foundation notes that support from Avery Dennison will enable the program to extend its reach beyond Bangalore through additional scholarships for students in other cities. “We see the grant from the Avery Dennison Foundation as an opportunity that gives us a ‘quantum leap,’” he said.

Today, five years after qualifying for her Avasar scholarship, Kusuma has completed her bachelor’s degree in computer science and secured a job with global logistics company Expeditors, which supports the nonprofit that administers the Avasar Scholarship Program. She is also undergoing training in air cargo management through the International Air Transport Association. With a steady income, “I am taking care of my family and supporting my brother’s education,” she said. “Our standard of living has changed.”

Devika works at Expeditors as well, and is pursuing a postgraduate diploma in international business operations.

“Avasar,” she says, “has made a big difference in my life.”

Learn more about The Avery Dennison Foundation’s support of women’s empowerment, and its other programs, here.

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