What does “Sudar” and “Ushassu” mean?

Because our programs provide inspiration and hope to our students, we have chosen “light” as our unifying theme, and have named our centers “light” in the local languages: Sudar, means “light” in Tamil and Ushassu, means “morning dawn” in Telugu. All future WEP centers will be named a word for light in the local language.

Why does WEP serve only women?

WEP serves women exclusively because in India women are more likely to lack the support and resources to attend college. Due to cultural barriers, female literacy rates and attendance at primary and secondary schools remain considerably lower than their male counterparts, and poor families are more likely to spend their limited resources to educate male children. In addition, research has shown that women who are educated are more likely than men to provide for their families and ensure that their own children attend school. WEP believes that by helping women in India we are filling a crucial gap, and that our students will effect positive and long term changes in their communities.

How did WEP start and why in India?

Zoe Timms, the founder of WEP, studied and worked in India while attending the University of Wisconsin. Through this experience she saw firsthand the problems caused by poverty and was inspired to help. While working in Madurai for the University, Zoe and Kathryn Ugoretz, a former board member, thought of creating a center to support women pursuing higher education and careers. In 2002, they launched the Sudar center, WEP’s first center.

Are WEP centers run locally?

WEP centers are run by local staff and teachers, with oversight from our U.S. based headquarters. In addition, the Sudar center has a local board of directors and the Ushassu center has a local advisory board.

How much does it cost for one student to attend WEP’s programs?

Just $250 sponsors a young woman to attend WEP programs and college courses for one year. This includes tuition, books, enrollment in WEP’s academic and social support courses, mentoring and counseling, and job training and placement assistance. Some students are provided a transportation allowance.

Do students pay to attend WEP programs?

Students pay approximately $2 a month to attend the Sudar program. This minimum fee encourages ownership of the program and center.

Do WEP students study in India or abroad?

WEP students study at their local colleges and universities.

Do students’ parents approve of their participation in WEP’s programs?

Before students begin their studies, our local staff members meet with their parents, who are often illiterate, to answer their questions. In our experience, almost all parents want their daughters to complete college and enter careers because they know this will ensure a better life and future for their daughters.

Why does WEP offer the I am a Leader program – the life skills program?

WEP wants to prepare our students to be successful members of their community. WEP’s I am a Leader program does this by first offering a program which the students design and plan themselves. Students choose how (through workshops, field trips, and mini projects) they will learn about personal health, nutrition, communication, finance, civics and the environment. I am a Leader program helps the students gain their Voice, confidence and the ability to make decisions. 

Does WEP guide students into specific careers?

WEP helps students follow their career ambitions by working with them to determine their strengths and giving them career counseling to help them discover options in their field of interest. This guidance is critical because most students are unaware of the career options available to them. WEP gives students exposure to employment options from farming to teaching to health care. We also help those students coming from rural areas to explore employment opportunities within their villages so they will not be forced to move to urban areas in search of work.

Why is WEP focused on India ?

Although India’s economy has grown over the last decade, the benefits of this growth have not been shared equally among its citizens. In fact, the number of people living in poverty in India has changed very little in recent years, and the divide between rich and poor has grown. Women are especially vulnerable to this divide due to cultural beliefs and barriers that keep them from fully participating in the country’s economic growth. By helping ambitious young women pursue higher education and meaningful careers, WEP hopes to bridge this divide and help our students rise out of poverty and reap the benefits of India’s growing economy.


How do WEP centers begin? 

WEP partners with existing NGOs to open new centers. This helps us keep start-up costs low and allows us to reach our target population through the NGO’s network and contacts. In addition, our partner NGOs provide invaluable local knowledge and help us find the best teachers, principals and advisors to run our centers.