A true ASSET for India’s marginalized citizens
assistant professor of marketing and co-founder, ASSET India Foundation
Nita Umashankar returned from a gap year in Bangalore, India, haunted by the marginalized women and children she had seen. Many had no choice but prostitution; others were sexually trafficked.
“I was stunned by what I saw and knew something had to be done,” said Nita.
Spurred to action, Nita worked with her parents, both of whom are on faculty at the University of Arizona, to found the ASSET (Achieving Sustainable Social Equality through Technology) India Foundation.
The foundation differs from many skills-building initiatives for India’s poor, which focus on sewing, basket weaving and painting, by preparing its students to enter the nation’s booming information technology sector.
“There is always a large supply of entry level positions in IT and a pressing need to fill them,” said Nita.
ASSET students are 16 to 22 years old and either children of prostitutes or rescued from trafficking. For six to nine months they study conversational English, computer training and life skills.
Since the first center opened in 2007, more than 600 students have graduated from the program and 70 percent have been placed in jobs.
When asked what ASSET has taught her, Nita discusses the resilience of the students. “They cope with uncertainty and survive despite the challenges they face. We have so much to learn from them.”