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

Megha Bhatia – Our Voix

I am Megha Bhatia, founder of ‘Our Voix’, a youth lead organization which provides free preventive workshops on Child Sexual Abuse (CSA). Our focus is on primary prevention of CSA. Voix means ‘voice’. When the children are sexually abused, they are muted and we need to give them voice, so their pleas could be heard.  The whole idea was seeded when I dealt with sexually abused children, providing them counseling and assisting them in medical examination, during my internship with Sofia Education and Welfare Society. As a legal intern I was assisting with the work of Crisis Intervention Centre, Mahila Panchayat, etc. This close association helped me realize how single instance of sexual abuse can haunt a person for his entire life. It inhibits their personal and professional growth and keeps them caged in this dreadful experience. I had to do something to save these innocent souls from the agony and affliction of sexual abuse. If the foundation was set right, we would be able to achieve a lot.

I started researching on the issue of Child sexual abuse and realized it is preventable and not inevitable. To remove the myths around child sex abuse or CSA, I organized awareness camps for women and their children informing them about laws and psychological side of CSA. I felt, I still had to expand to my domain knowledge in the realm of Human rights, so I decided to pursue masters in LLM specialization in Human Right. I was offered an admission at University College of London. At the college, I continued with an in-depth research on CSA, the psychological aspects, legal provisions and the magnitude of the problem. I became so passionate about the cause that I decided to do an internship with NSPCC, leading charity in Britain dealing with CSA. In London, I also got a chance to be a part of various leading organizations such as Save the Children, Amnesty International, Art of Living, ASPIeRATIONS, The Camden Society London working for various social causes such as children in armed conflict, autism, child abuse and human rights.

I was eager to apply my skills and go back to my country and help the children, even though societal pressures insisted me to do a corporate job instead. But it was something which did not fascinated me. I felt the children were waiting for me.  In India, I have worked with organisations such as Sarvahitey, SEWS, etc. After sufficient knowledge, work and studies, I decided I was ready to start my own organization for this cause, hence ‘Our Voix’. It started on 22 January, 2018 with an Instagram post in London. Now we are based in Delhi. The support I received from people was heartwarming; we have volunteers from London, USA, Canada and different parts of India. We organize free workshops not only for children but also for parents. We make parents and children aware of different aspects of CSA and help them overcome the difficulties of CSA by openly holding discussing with the children, their parents and teachers. We have imparted knowledge on prevention of Child Sexual Abuse to more than 2000+ children in less than two months, and have collaborated with organizations such as ‘Delhi Child Welfare Council’, Robinhood Army, etc.

And I realize this is just the beginning! During one of the regular workshops, we observed an interesting thing. Children were unaware of the correct name of their body parts; some named ‘chest’ as ‘CHIPS’, for others ‘SECRETS’ disguised the word ‘Cigarette’. It’s a long journey from Chips to Chest, but the journey has started and it’s worth it for saving all these innocent souls who are to become the future of our country.

Megha Bhatia | Founder Our Voix

Akash Tandon- Pehchan School

My name is Akash Tandon, an engineer by education, a digital marketer by profession, a social worker by interest and an artist by heart. I am working on social issues since last five years and I am currently running a slum school with the name Pehchan, which works for underprivileged children in a small slum of Delhi.

After volunteering for a number of social causes like women empowerment, children education and working with organizations like India against Corruption for almost three years; I decided to dedicate all my energies for one cause in particular- ‘Education of underprivileged children’. One fine day, I received a call from my friend who was overwhelmed to do something for the same cause and we started to discuss when, where and how of making it happen. After some research, we decided on where! It was ‘Anna-Nagar’, an area which lacked access to even proper toilets back in the day and ironically happens to be right behind the most elite social world organization – World Health Organisation. Such inequality to exist, at the periphery of the righteous state, seemed unfair at so many levels. With curiosity and a bucket full of questions, we went inside that slum to see how one of the largest slums of Delhi is operating. We met many people and all our discussions further cemented our belief and idea that we were headed in the right direction.

The idea was to inspire people – people with access to high-quality education – to take it upon them and make education accessible to those who are denied it. We decided we should be the first one to give these children ‘Pehchan’ and we made our first engagement – teaching a batch of 5 students without any roof to cover our heads or any infrastructure except the roads to sit on. As the day went, people started recognizing our efforts and they appreciated our mission and realized how difficult it must be to manage a class on road. And like a Christmas miracle, the slum people gave us an empty temple as a haven to take this noble cause forward. Our journey started with less than 5 volunteers and 10 children but in last 2.5 years, we have grown to more than 200 students and 60 volunteers. The biggest highlight was a recent event organized by ‘Pehchan group’ on Diwali. The event saw the participation of 60+ active volunteers who helped in organizing and conducting a fun-filled event like dance and quiz competitions with children and saw the donation of stationary, clothes, school bags on a massive scale. Also, 25 students from ‘Pehchan’ school went to secure admission in good primary schools for the first time in their family’s history.

We are an unregistered group and it has been really difficult for us to find donors and volunteers. Despite this, we have been able to sustain a large group of 60+ volunteers and received recognition on social media and newspapers. We are in the process of completing our registration and I am confident that this 2.5 years of hard work will pay off.

The mission of ‘Pehchan’ is to inspire people around us that education is the birthright of every child and we take the onus on us to make it accessible to them. A volunteer from our team implemented this idea in personal space as well and now he teaches children of house-maids and security guards on weekends. I want each one of us to become that story, because we can only bring so many ‘Pehchan’ schools to every street of Delhi and world, if and only if, all of us decide to give ‘Pehchan’ to every child who deserves it. Come let us make education viral.

Akash Tandon| Pehchan, The Street School

Harshit Gupta- Womenite

Everyday things which pass as blur, became the focus of my life and brought inspiration to bring ‘Womenite’ to reality. Most of us, like me, had grown up seeing how our mothers sacrifice all their might and happiness for the sake of her family. And it pained me to see that despite all their abilities and sacrifices, world plagues with stereotypes and continues to treat women as inferior sex and deny them their most basic rights. This realization motivated me to take a stand and I was a 19-year-old undergraduate engineering student at NSIT when I decided to start ‘Womenite’ with a mission to create an equal society with education, love, and empowerment.

I’m an Engineer by education and social entrepreneur by choice. When I started Womenite, people used to mock me by saying that I do some kind of business which involves supplying girls at night- ‘Women at nite’ but surpassing these mockeries and hurdles, ‘Womenite’ has come a long way. We have worked for ‘HeForShe’ campaign, UN Women’s solidarity movement for gender equality. We were also invited at the UN Women’s headquarters in New York for Brown Bag activity to present our project. Also, Womenite gave me the opportunity to become a global youth ambassador for ‘A World At School’ campaign which aims to promote quality education for all i.e. SDG 4. I was featured as TEDx speaker and was highly-commended runners-up for Queen’s Young Leader Award chosen by HH Queen Elizabeth II with a 1-year mentoring course on Leading Change by the University of Cambridge.

The dark underbelly of the world has some hideous facts and it stirs something inside you to work constantly to create a better world for women. We live in a world where more than two-thirds of all women have been harassed sexually or physically at least once in their lifetime. This is a world where every third woman gets harassed in her workplace. Here, a housemaker’s work has no monetary reward and menstruating is considered a taboo where bleeding women are barred from entering religious places. I believe these problems will continue until people are ‘educated’ and made ‘aware’ about these issues and their skewed mentality is changed. Thus, we conduct workshops with our focus on three key issues, namely ‘Child Abuse’, ‘Gender Equality’ and ‘Menstrual Hygiene’ in order to educate children and adults alike.

The workshop on child sexual abuse functions in four age brackets: grade 4, grade 5-6, grade 7-8, and grades 9-10. It aims to educate students about safe and unsafe touch and talk to them about danger, trust, and safety. It teaches them the concept of personal space; make them aware of abuse and its types, i.e. contact and non-contact.

The workshop on gender equality finds its target audience in the children of ages 12 and above. Its primary objective is to make children realize that gender inequality does not exist in a vacuum; rather, it permeates every part of our lives and affects everybody and everyone, regardless of the social systems that bind them. The gender equality workshop has a follow-up, i.e. the feminism workshop that introduces children to the concept and ideologies of feminism.

The workshop on menstrual hygiene aims to educate both young and aged about the process of menstruation and serves to bust myths and folklore around the menstruation process. It motivates the audience to use products available in the market that are aimed towards menstrual hygiene.

Till this date, we have conducted sessions in over 100 schools, organizations (including other NGOs), colleges and public events, thus, impacting over 20,000 students and youth. But I believe there is still a lot that has to be done; as an old saying goes- ‘Rome was not built in a day’ and a new ‘equal’ society must wait many days to come into being.

 

Harhsit Gupta|Founder- Womenite NGO

Anvi-‘NazariyaEkSoch’

Fifteen is a delicate age. After spending a decade in illusions, we steer out of haziness and start consciously deciding ‘To be or not to be’. For me the choice was clear, I decided ‘To be’ a medium of change, as something Gandhi Ji said always inspired me ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’.

It is difficult enough to break the taboos let alone think of doing at age of fifteen when no one takes your words seriously because people think ‘you are too young’ to have judgment or opinions. But they all are excuses people make because they have accepted to live with distorted views, never realizing that their rituals are outcomes of irrational superstitions. I am talking about one of the biggest taboos women bear brunt of their whole lives- Menstruation.

A lot of people are set out to speak the unspeakable but one voice- Aditi Gupta’s Ted talk stirred something inside me and made me realize what I really wanted to do! The realization marked the beginning of my journey – to burn the stereotypes and judgments and bring the purity of thoughts. It was difficult at first but being brought up in an unorthodox and supportive family gave me the courage of taking up this initiative of making society aware about “Menstruation and its Taboos”.

I started out small, taking a few workshops in the neighboring schools; creating awareness on Menstruation, talking to the students freely about the whole topic, telling them what to do and how to do. It was a bit difficult sometimes. I wasn’t appreciated by the teachers in some schools because they thought it was something that should not to be talked about in open. But I outgrew all the negatives and despite all the hurdles I have managed to conduct 20 workshops with a footfall of around 2500 people till now. The biggest achievement was the success of an event in Delhi where I organized an open discussion on “Menstruation and its taboos”

Now that I have a good start, I plan to expand my reach, make more people aware about menstruation and break the silence on this topic. I want people to understand that it’s not a curse rather a blessing to get periods. There is nothing impure about it and there is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a natural process, that every girl, every woman goes through. It’s a gift to women.

No good thing ever dies and I hope my small contribution will create a ripple in the sea and bring about the change needed to break the taboos on menstruation.

 

Anvi| Founder ‘Nazariya’ Organisation

 

RISHI BANSHIWAL- REACHING SKY FOUNDATION

In the world which is constantly changing and evolving, you run the risk of becoming obsolete if you are not adopting. ‘Survival of the fittest’- decades old as this biological theory slash adage is, it shall never lose its relevance even if human race was wiped out and ruled by robots or machines.

I am Rishi Banshiwal, co-founder of ‘Reaching Sky Foundation’. This social initiative is aimed at making the youth of India ‘fit’ for survival in this competitive world and makes them employable by imparting them the most important skills and education. Currently I am a United Nations Volunteer, working on a National Project which promotes volunteering among youth all over India to get involved in matters critical for the development of the country like the sustainable development goals. We are working on opportunities so that they can improve their skills, networks, competencies and feel much more confident about themselves and then go on to become success stories and inspire others in their respective society.

I belong to a family which has a deeply rooted culture of volunteering and I imbibed their habits whole heartedly. It is a maddening world and it takes being more than ‘good enough’ to make a mark in the society. I come from a humble background and I realized it was need of the hour to make people, especially our youth, resourceful and thus came the idea for this initiative.

After completing my graduation I worked with many young leaders and organizations in Delhi/NCR and executed 8+ social projects. I got hungry to learn more and realized I needed to develop skills to deliver the best, if I were to stick to this field and make a social impact. So, I took up a managerial Course (MBA) from a socially inclined University in Agra – Dayalbagh Educational Institute. In the last semester of my MBA, post finishing my internship with another social organization, I registered my dream social venture. Through this initiative I wanted to give power and awesomeness to our youth which promotes lifelong growth. After discussing this idea with co-founder Sunidhi Kant, we decided to give it a name – ‘‘Reaching Sky Foundation”..

Riding on a wave of passion to make an impact, we started with empty hands and a big dream. We wanted to save money so we painted the walls of our office by ourselves and converted a rented store room into a breathable working office space within a month. I also learnt new skills like designing, video-editing, web development etc. which made me very productive. We embraced and utilized new technology to solve day to day problems. It’s difficult to show someone what you are working on at the initial stage and there are apprehensions as to what should be the next step. It is important to have faith and take suggestions and criticism in a positive light.

My passion and my efforts for promoting volunteering and supporting youth were rewarded when as I was awarded as the “Youth Champion” in September, 2016 by iVolunteer Awards! This was extremely humbling and motivating moment for me and it energized me double up my efforts to keep up the good work.

Today, the small initiative started in a rented room is a big movement, giving opportunities to hundreds of youth to help change their lives by changing the life of others. In the last half decade of working with youth and children on quality education at more than 10 slum sites and by mobilizing more than 25,000 volunteers , I have managed to streamline my passion for volunteering in a more effective and deliberate way and the rewards have been immensely fulfilling! On the field, when I see my students excitingly waiting for our team to come and teach the lessons we have planned, it makes all the hard work worth it. When the volunteers who devoted their time in being the resourceful persons on field tells me that they had the best time of their lives and they feel much more confident and competent about themselves, I feel our efforts are important and relevant for the development of our society.

I feel that I am the luckiest person because I chose to work for my ‘passion’ rather than for a ‘job’.

Rishi Banshiwal

Co-founder ‘Reaching Sky Foundation’| Social Entrepreneur