This profile was prepared when Anu Wakhlu was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1993.
The New Idea
Anu Wakhlu knows that housewives and students are employment resources waiting to be inspired and motivated. She has designed a program to help both groups realize that they not only have significant work skills and strengths, but they also have various employment options from which to choose. More important, rather than simply offering the women employment choices, Anu is helping them discover what they want to do with their lives and assisting them in implementing their goals.Anu's "Good Work Center" and Pragati Foundation help potential job seekers define their concerns about entering the workforce, identify their skills and abilities and plan a course of action for developing their careers. Anu's program focuses on positive thinking, creativity and innovation. It includes stress management and communication skills, and facilitates career planning based on individual aptitude.Her program for youth emphasizes gaining admission to higher educational institutions and accessing available jobs. The job planning process for helping students with their career choices incorporates self-analysis, brainstorming about career possibilities and using a job bank that matches students with actual employers. Anu has also encouraged students to be entrepreneurial and to explore unusual career paths. For example, she encouraged three students who had knowledge of botany to establish a plant nursery that rents plants to hotels and other businesses. Anu also encourages the idealism of young people by providing a channel into local volunteer programs with community organizations. Anu's career programs for women target urban middle-class housewives who have never been employed. This is a talented group that has been restrained from seeking employment by a tradition that defines their identity in terms of family and home. Anu designed a process and materials for the program that is the first of its kind in India to help participants identify their individual skills and develop career action plans, in turn reinforcing one another. She teaches the women to set priorities, manage their time, work in a group setting and manage the stress of adjusting to a new career. To help the women gain confidence in themselves and in their decision to pursue a career outside the home, the program also addresses issues of career women as parents and builds awareness of the positive role models that working mothers can provide for their children.