Social Reformer and Founder Director of Amcha Ghar
That she needs an introduction is unfortunate. For there are not many as venerable as social reformer Agatha Sushila Dias, who’s saved more than 500 girls from the perils of falling off the tracks through her NGO ‘Amcha Ghar’.
Her story is one of grit and determination. Born in 1967 in a small village called Madar, Ajmer in the state of Rajasthan, to an Army veteran father and a housewife mother, Agatha was brought up in a poor household with six siblings.
When she was 16, she left her hometown and migrated to Mumbai to join the German Missionary. Arriving in Mumbai, she learned English and began her mission by serving needy people in the slums of Andheri, which later expanded to the slums and villages of Madhya Pradesh, Bangalore, etc. In 1991, she took admission in Nirmala Niketan college of Social Work, as a missionary to pursue her Bachelor’s in Social Work. It was then she realised that she didn’t have to go down the religious path to serve society.
With Rs 20,000 in hand, she quit the missionary, moved into the college hostel, and began her journey to an independent life. In 1993, with a lot of financial difficulties and various other challenges, Agatha graduated in Social Work and took a job as a community social worker that paid Rs 2,800 monthly. During her final years of college, she met her to-be husband Anthony Dias and married him in 1994.
Marriage did not dim Agatha’s determination to create a safe home for girls who are abandoned and at risk. And thus with her husband’s support in 1996, she co-founded ‘Amcha Ghar’ (Our home) in the village of Uttan, Bhayander (W), Mumbai, India.
Amcha Ghar is an implementing NGO that provides residence (shelter home for girls), formal English Medium education (Co-ed School and Junior College), recreation, and spiritual facilities to underprivileged children of the Society. It also works on various community campaigns like medical support, senior citizen support, and others. Most importantly, it provides holistic development to girls and helps them rehabilitate in society by helping them gain higher education, finding good jobs, and getting married.
Under Agatha’s leadership, Amcha Ghar, which celebrated its silver jubilee on April 14, 2021, has saved and educated more than 500 girls and impacted the lives of more than 1.30 million beneficiaries. Agatha’s selfless devotion to service is commendable when you consider that as a woman, she chose to be voluntarily childless and accept the children that come to Amcha Ghar as her own. Children willingly call her ‘Mom’, and she lives in the premises to give them a sense of belonging in a family.
At 53 years of age, Agatha has dedicated a lifetime to saving young girls. She’s also won awards and recognitions for the same. But her daughters are her biggest achievement, says Agatha, adding, “For me achievements and awards in the form of paper and material can never be better than being called ‘MOM’ by thousands of children. My daughters are my strength. When I lost my husband, they were the ones who left everything to stand by me.”
An exemplary women’s leader herself, Agatha has inspired hundreds of other women on the path to a fulfilling life. She is their champion and their voice, and remains so even after they leave her roots in search of their wings.
A strong advocate of women in the workforce, Agatha leaves us with some important tips on how to support women across different organisations. She feels the emergence of female leaders can become a centrifugal force for good in the world. Considering the global trends, we need the talents, skills and competencies of both men and women to achieve optimal growth and productivity in nations and organisations.
Few of the strategies that could help us to bring more gender diversity and women in leadership roles include:
- Create a circle of influence to identify and mentor women leadership.
- Invest in capacity building while catching them early.
- Improvise gender budget and designated programs around it to coach women leaders.
- Reduce pay gaps, gender wise.
- Strategies, roadmap on succession planning in the organization for women leaderships.
- Role-model a commitment to diversity, including with business partners.