Poonam Learns to Drive and Take Control of her Life
Poonam Deshmukh, 20, has always been fascinated by cars and promised herself that she will own a car one day.
“We have a motorbike at home and my brother owns a bicycle. But I am not allowed to touch the motorbike so I learned to ride the bicycle. I love riding the bicycle, going down the hill with the wind on my face, I feel so happy and free,” she said.
Poonam is one of the beneficiaries of RYTHM Foundation who is currently being coached at the Mann Deshi Youth Development Centre for her Maharashtra Public Service Commission (MPSC) examination in April.
“Girls from rural areas like us barely have enough to eat, let alone any hope to pursue our dreams. The Mann Deshi Youth Development Center gave girls like me the hope to be who we want. I will definitely use this opportunity to train and enhance my capabilities,” she said.
“When I first joined the Centre, I was amazed to see the different types of activities such as sports-based training, speaking competitions, quizzes, personality development workshops and the guest lecturers who talk about a variety of topics including empowerment and confidence. After participating in these activities, I can hold a conversation with anyone without any fear or hesitation,” she said.
At the Centre, she also came closer to her dream of driving a car since the Mann Deshi Foundation offers driving lessons as part of its programme.
“I was so excited when I first saw the white Maruti Suzuki car. It was like a dream come true for me. I loved the thrill and the feel when I changed the gears,” she said.
“Now, I am the first person in my family who knows how to drive a car,” she added.
Prabhat Sinha, a coach at the Centre says most of the girls in the programme aspire to drive a car since they view it as a sign of independence.
“We engaged a driving school and an instructor. We wanted to emphasise the idea that they are in control of their lives, just as when they take control while driving a car,” Prabhat said.
Besides driving her own car, Poonam also dreams of becoming a lawyer.
“At the Centre, the teachers guided me on the entrance examination that I need to pass to become a lawyer. I’ve been given a book to prepare for the exam. I’m sure I will achieve my dream one day,” she said.
“When I become a lawyer, I want to help girls who come from backgrounds like me to buy cars and to own houses so they can be more independent,” she added.
Supported by RYTHM Foundation, the Mann Deshi Champions Youth Development Center helps young women in the drought-prone region of Mann Taluka, rural Maharashtra to develop their lives through sports, personal development workshops and academic programming.