Amit Jain – Mitti Ke Rang

I am a 27 year-old Nomad Traveller, entrepreneur, social worker, youth activist and a student.

An Indian Correspondent at Commonwealth, I am also a World Economic Forum Extended Shaper, a Global Youth Ambassador at Theirworld, Delegate – Pune Austin Sister city.

I Founded Mitti Ke Rang (MKR) in 2014 to address gender equality and widows empowerment, to provide them resources and support.

Moreover, I founded the Social Network Startup “Connecting 196 Countries”, a forum that seeks to connect young change-makers in the world to bring ideas and share best practices which will foster development in their communities.

We often talk about issues facing women but have rarely spent time thinking about the wellbeing of widows in our society. In India alone, there are more than 42 Million Widows out of which 60% live in very dismal conditions.

I come from a lower middle-class Indian family and have faced many hardships. My father did not live long enough to see me become something. My father passed away when I was four, leaving behind his wife and two sons and lots of loan behind. Due of the outstanding loan, from a very early age I was used to listen the words like Nilami and Jhapti. I worked hard for academic success throughout school. I wanted to be an engineer but had to shift to Commerce due to lack of money.

So, what now? Many said that with BCom degree you won’t be able to get a job, but I thought let’s give it a try. I wanted to overcome poverty. I moved to Pune in 2012 with just 1,000 rupees. I did not have a place to stay and did not know where to apply for a job. One month and many interviews later a company hired me. Our condition started improving and in 2014 I shifted my mother to Pune.

I have lived in so many challenging situations that Widows and their children have to face, often feeling frustrated and helpless. I couldn’t find any information or get access to support groups that could help widows. It was then that I made it my mission to fill the gap and start Mitti Ke Rang.

Our Society does not have the openness to accept widows as strong women who can contribute. Just because my mother is a widow, she was not allowed to take part in prayers/rituals, marriage ceremonies, or apply mehendi (henna). After my father passed away, my mother didn’t know what to do. She was not aware of her rights. In a fraction of a second everything changed, and she was completely unprepared for it. Raising two children with no financial stability was not an easy feat. This was my trigger to start working towards widows empowerment because I do not want anyone else to feel so helpless.

Amit Jain | Founder Mitti Ke Rang

Apoorv Om (Artist) – Ability rather than Disability

‘It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities’- Dumbledore’s golden words to teen Harry have touched and inspired everyone at one or the other point in their lives. I have my own version of this inspirational quote-‘It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities or our disabilities

I am Apoorv Om, a Deaf, 23 years old, an Artist, a student of B.Arch at School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), New Delhi, Innovator of hanging  2D/ 3D models of buildings and creative artwork and a certified yoga trainer. I got special Honors from UN Leaders and Govt. of India personalities. I am also the recipient of National Award for Persons with Disabilities, 2017 in Role Model category; National Gaurav Awards’17; National Education Leadership Awards the Asia Pacific Higher Education Summit’18, And the Global First Ever ‘Deaf’ Youth as peace leader (India) in 2nd international Volunteering conference of UNESCO. It is a long story before my identity became the one of its kind as an artist, volunteer and disability rights activist. My disabilities such as being deaf, speech impairment, retinitis pigmentosa and an eye disorder had presented insurmountable challenges and I continue to struggle to lead a normal life despite many achievements. I have not allowed hearing impediment & visual impairment to dampen my championing of UN as a global platform for an inclusive society.

India lags behind in providing support, policies, and infrastructure which promotes quality education for a person with disabilities. I completed my schooling from Navy Children’s School with the Inclusive education system in spite of great hurdles and lack of communications due to non-facilitation of modern smart classes with digitalization but the bigger troubles began when I had to pursue my higher education. I was denied admission to CIC, Delhi University and JOSAA for NIIT, despite my merit in IIT JEE because of mismanagement. Finally, they allowed me to take admission in School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi only after The Order of The Hon’ble High Court of Delhi. Even after admission, the SPA asked my father to withdraw my admission as they had no system to facilitate education to the deaf. Still, SPA has no such system in place though they extracted full fees without any concession from a disabled student. Also, I am the first deaf who successfully completed two certificate course in yoga courses from MDNIY, Delhi.

This incident was an eye-opener for me. So many meritorious students lose out on quality education and have their dreams trampled upon due to one disability. According to Census 2011, there are 2.68 crore persons with disabilities in our country who exhibit great diversity in terms of quantum of disability as well as types of disabilities.

I decided to bring respective authority’s attention to make education inclusive for disabled, so I wrote to the Union HRD ministry for two years. I was disheartened when I did not receive any response but I continued writing. This time I wrote to the UN and much to my surprise, they responded. I am now a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) Youth Volunteer and through various youth conferences and discussions in personal meetings with higher authorities of UN & India for digitization inclusive system in education and unique ID CARD, I have tried to raise awareness and bring the disabled rights issues and concerns to the table also given suggestions for solution  which were admired.

I had the honor to present portraits to many internationally and nationally acclaimed personalities like Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi on 1st International Day of Yoga; Mr. Venkaiah Naidu, Vice President of India; Mr. Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretary-General; Deputy Director-General of UNESCO; Cabinet Minister of India; 6 Chief Justice of Countries; Mr. Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Laureate; Governors of India and  Sachin Tendulkar.

 H.E.Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary-General on 20.04.2016 honored me by receiving my artwork  and Mr. Dalveer Bhandari (Indian judge), Judge of ICJ with the Mr. Ronny Abraham, President of ICJ Invited me and received My Special Painting to The President of ICJ on the event of 70th Anniversary of the International Court of Justice (United Nations) at Peace Palace, The Hague, Netherlands in April 2016.  A painting of UNOG Building is placed in UNOG, Geneva, Switzerland in Sept 2017 by Director General of UN Office at Geneva. My 2D model of UNESCO HQ Building has been installed at the main exhibition hall at UNESCO HQ, Paris; I had presented it to Director-General of UNESCO on 20.04.2018. I also decided to use my sketching skills to gather people’s attention. I presented a 2D model of Supreme Court of India Building to Chief Justice of India H L Dattu and placed at Supreme Court Museum of India in 2015.

I give yoga as well as Art & Craft lesson on weekends to many children from underprivileged sections of society. My efforts have been helpful in bringing some attention to the matter and in one of the conventions, the HRD Minister has assured to support my admission in IIT and provide further education support.

I am still miles away from achieving my goal and receiving my basic right to education and leading a normal life. But I will continue making my efforts, through my portraits and representing the disabled class in international and national platforms.

India needs firm laws in place to support the disabled, or else let the headline (as put by one newspaper) remain true- ’No country for the Disabled’

Apoorv Om – Young Artist Working for SDG