Journeys Of Three Young Achievers Who Are On The Path Of Catalysing Change

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“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” Powerful words by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi that reflect the potential of a human being to bring about change he/she wishes to see. Bringing about change is not a matter of resources only, but of grit and determination, however small the scale, and whatever be the cause. Sarah Berry explores the journeys of some go-getters, who have started out young on the path of catalysing change. 

Nilay Wankhade hails from a small town in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. He is currently pursuing his studies in public policy. Post his Automobile Engineering, the young lad took up a job, for a year, with Tech Mahindra, which is when he found his calling in the form of the Ideosync UNESCO India Fellow (IUIF) programme; here he worked at Mann Deshi Tarang Vahini, a grassroots community radio station in Mhaswad, Maharashtra, followed by a job at the radio’s parent organization, Mann Deshi Foundation, working for the cause of economic empowerment and skill development  of women. “During my work in the IT sector, I realised that my skills are not making the impact I would have wanted them too; I felt I could add more meaning by working with a grassroots organisation, thereby, directly impacting people’s lives. It was then that IUIF happened, through which I chose Communication for Social Change (C4SC) as my area of interest. During the fellowship year, I got a chance to revamp the documentation structure of the radio station and focus efforts on increasing listenership, for which we took up various community engagement initiatives, including social media outreach. An important outcome of the fellowship was an Andriod app, developed for the radio station, to enable community members listen to their favourite content, anywhere, without the need of a radio set. ”


Post-fellowship, Nilay joined Mann Deshi Foundation. Though most of the work was documentation related, he got the opportunity to design a digital financial inclusion programme for rural women entrepreneurs in Satara district. This was a great opportunity as no such programme existed and everything needed to be built from scratch. Over the span of the programme, over 5,000 women entrepreneurs were trained to use digital payments methods such as debit cards, UPI, internet banking, POS, etc. The programme taught him the importance of localisation of solutions and its effectiveness. Many women who were unbanked, now use smartphones to make and accept payments.

Journeys Of Three Young Achievers Who Are On The Path Of Catalysing Change

Adds Nilay: “Having worked in digital financial inclusion, I realise the potential of FinTech and want to utilise my understanding of the sector to make such programmes more effective, countrywide. My other interests include environment and technology, as I firmly believe that technology can provide solutions to the most challenging issues faced right now. Through my study as a public policy scholar, I expect to secure a broad understanding of the policy space in various sectors. I believe that all social issues are interconnected and can’t be fully addressed by focusing only on the superficial aspects. After my course, I want to gain experience in an organisation working towards address environmental issues with the help of technology, build networks and leverage them to take up an initiative in the environment and agriculture sectors in the Vidarbha region, to where I belong.”

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Shreeradha Mishra grew up in Cuttack, Orissa. She completed her graduation from Miranda House, University of Delhi and her post-graduation from Azim Premji University. Shreeradha began her full-time career in Varanasi, as a district coordinator for the Child Welfare Committee, with the Aangan Trust. One of the aspects of her role involved working on the repatriation and rehabilitation of survivors of child trafficking, along with the sensitisation of the district police towards the rights of children, vis-à-vis the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences (POCSO) legislation.

“When I started working with survivors of child sexual abuse, it was very difficult for me and I felt guilty for making a child relive the trauma of abuse while trying to document the cases. One day, a child I had been working with told me how it had been so liberating for her to speak about what had happened with and not be judged in the process. I always carry that moment within me.”  Her parents raised Shreeradha to be deeply empathic towards the needs of those less privileged. This prompted her to start volunteering at homes for special children when she was just fifteen. After that, there has been no turning back. “The cause of child rights has always been something that has been particularly close to my heart, the affinity I have had towards the cause also has to do with my story of being a survivor of child sexual abuse.”

Though relatively young and new in the field, Shreeradha does acknowledge that there is still a lot for her to accomplish. Over the course of her work, she has realised that working with communities and towards systems change is an up-hill climb, with more of challenging moments and fewer rewarding ones. “During my work with Leher, an organisation that works towards child protection and systems change, I co-authored a District Need Assessment study that highlighted the status of child protection mechanisms in two districts of Maharashtra; this helped inform district level policy interventions around the same.”

Journeys Of Three Young Achievers Who Are On The Path Of Catalysing Change

She cities a number of challenges though in the domain: the impetus given to child rights. Shreeradha cites an example for this in how the union budget for 2019 stands at just 3.29% for children (who comprise 40% of India’s total population), whereas the National Plan of Action for Children recommends an allocation of at least 5%. Another crucial challenge, which also stems from a lack of awareness regarding child protection, is the absence of a nuanced understanding of child protection issues when drafting laws and policies. “As far as solutions go, there is no unidimensional solution given the complex nature of these issues — they require multilateral strategies and collaborative efforts. A stable community is the first and foremost requirement for creating a safe space for children to grow and thrive in. There have been some excellent community-based interventions to illustrate that this is possible. Perhaps it is time to think about how some of these good practices could be made scalable. Another solution that has also been stressed on a lot, but not enough, is building the capacities of the grassroots child protection institutions like District Child Protection Units, Child Welfare Committees, Juvenile Justice Boards, shelter homes, and the police.”

Shreeradha hopes to take her study in public policy, coupled with her professional experiences to work on social issues at a multi-dimensional level. “I hope to work alongside the Government, in a position where I can influence the designing and implementation of public policy.”

“It was in 2016…I was working with UNICEF Chennai as a young professional for the WASH Programme. During the course of my work, I found that my home district – Nagarkurnool – ranked last as far as the Individual Household Latrine Application or IHHL was concerned. This led me to take an important decision: to work for the district I hailed from. Luckily during that time, I got the opportunity to work for the Telangana State Swachha Bharath Mission as the State WASH Consultant on behalf of UNICEF Hyderabad. Six months into my service, I applied to TATA TRUST and the MoDWS programme for the post of a ZSBP or Zila Swachh Bharat Prerak, says Sharath Babu

Journeys Of Three Young Achievers Who Are On The Path Of Catalysing Change

There was no looking back for Sharath thereafter. Post his selection, he got to down to work immediately, only to realize that there were a number of challenges: the Swachh Bharat Mission was not really considered a priority programme in his home district. Addressing the challenge, he arranged a district level convergence programme, the first of 21 he organized during the course of his assignment, at which diverse stakeholders were invited to commit to the cause of improving sanitation conditions, including commitment to a carefully planned action versus time plan approved by the concerned lead officials. A cascade approach training programme was also planned and executed at the district, block and gram panchayat levels. “Before I joined, there was not a single training programme conducted for key stakeholders of the Swachh Bharat Mission(SBM). This had to be changed if communities needed to be mobilised for the cause. Local media, junior and graduation colleges were targeted to begin with, as the latter are the future decision makers of the country. Thousands of students have been motivated to join the Swachh Bharat Mission in some form or the other, especially via the Swachh Bharat Summer Internship, which saw nearly 1400 college students registering for the same. Not only students, but also principals, teachers, lecturers, among others, were offered training, setting the field for more active participation, also via the concept of Swachata Ambassador/Swachhgrahi. The Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) initiative has, in addition, helped bring about the much need behavioural change as regards open defaecation. Self Help Groups, focussing on the involvement of women, served as the backbone of this important initiative, adds Sharath, a student of public policy at the Indian School of Public Policy. 

He adds proudly that when he joined Tata Trust, the percentage of households with toilet coverage stood at 24% but by the end of his term, within a year, the figure rose to 81%!” Sharath emphasizes how the amalgamation of his professional experience and his current study of public policy will serve as a platform for a deeper understanding and addressal of complex challenges that need customized solutions. He wishes to diversify his professional exposure, and make an impact in areas, where his expertise could be put to good use, just as was the case with the SBM. 

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote Is Distributing 40,000+ Meals Per Day In Mumbai During Covid-19 Lockdown

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Every global crisis affects every country in a different way depending on their socio-economic background. The COVID 19 pandemic hit India straight in its gut. After the lockdown daily wage workers and people who are underprivileged have been rendered out of their jobs. This has ultimately pushed them to an acute financial crisis so much so that even being able to afford two meals a day has become impossible. While we all wait for normalcy to bring us back our sanity, the financially disadvantaged people on the streets are fighting both the pandemic and hunger.

In a scenario like so, a number of social groups have come forward to help in whatever way they can. One of the worst hit cities is Mumbai, where 5 lakh migrant workers, the homeless and underprivileged residents of slums and chawls, waiting endlessly for normalcy to return., an initiative by is cooking food and delivering them to those in dire need, every single day.

“” that was launched in the city of Mumbai on March 29th, is one of its kind people-driven movements that has been running hall and hearty by the people coming from all across. It is that classic example of solidarity where people from all backgrounds, cultural and social has come together to ensure that every mouth is fed.

Brains behind KhaanaChahiye
Top : Pathik Muni, Ruben Mascarenhas. Below: Munaf Kapadia, Shishir Joshi

How does work

What’s different you ask? has built a capacity of preparing over a whopping 50000+ meals on a daily basis by activating the closed kitchens on several Mumbai routes. Pathik Muni, who has been particularly invested in the mission says, “ We crowdsource demand on hunger pockets and then map it to supply-side by activating closed kitchens. Our partner NGO “Project Mumbai” with reach to the relevant stake holders in Government departments helps us facilitate permissions to activate these closed Kitchens with a turn around of 24 hours. Parallelly we raise funds to map the demand.”

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Areas of food distribution in Mumbai

The food that is prepared is not just hygienic but also fits the calorie count that is sufficient for a person to get him through the day. Every meal consists of daal-rice, aloo-sabzi, chole rotis, veg pulav etc. has a volunteer-driven collective drive in various areas of Mumbai where people in large numbers have come forward to contribute in the many ways possible. So far the initiative has covered the Bandra to Dahisar route on Western Express Highway, Sion to CST and underprivileged pockets between Mankurd to Kurla on Eastern Express Highway, Juhu to Dahisar on Linking road, a cluster of 1100 labor camps near Mumbai Central and a part of Dharavi Slums.

If you want to volunteer in Mumbai kindly reach out to [email protected]

Food distribution areas  in Mumbai by

  1. To beggars & homeless
    • below the flyovers between Bandra to Dahisar on Western Express Highway,
    • between Juhu to Dahisar on Link road
    • below the flyovers between Ghatkopar to CST
    • under privileged pockets between Mankurd to Kurla.on Eastern Express Highway,
  2. To labour camps
    • a cluster of 1100 labour camp near Mumbai Central
    • a cluster of 3000 labour camp near Govandi
    • a cluster of 2000 labour camp near Mahul
    • a cluster of 750 labour camp in Colaba
  3. Parts of Dharavi Slums towards Cotton Green.
  4. Over 5000 meals in labour camps at various location identified and provided by the Assistant Commissioner,
  5. Serving food to over 5000 meals in Worli and Bandra on request of the local MLA and Corporator.

Immense demand of food in next 10 days

The intent of the movement is to continue the drive of feeding the needy in these difficult times at least until the lockdown is lifted by the government. However, as the days are proceeding, initiative has identified more and more hunger pockets as a result of which the demand for food is just rising since the time it started. To give a perspective of the recently emerged roadblock, Pathik says, “Nine days back, we started with 1200 meals and we are already catering a demand of 40,000+ as of today. We have corporate donors for most of our requirement, but as the demand for food is rising, we are now looking to feed 5000 people in next 10 days, which turns out to be 1,00,000 meals. Therefore we need to now raise a sum of Rs 25,00,000/- which is huge and we really need the support of more people.”

To raise the funds, initiative has come together with Efforts For Good and The Logical Indian to share this concern with our community members because as a citizen-driven movement, the initiative needs more and more people to come forward and a set a sum aside to keep the initiative going in its full glory so that there are no impediments coming in the way of feeding every mouth in these difficult times. Additionally, one can also contribute by sharing the word with friends and families. COVID 19 is difficult for all, the least we can do is to contribute so that the struggle to cope up with the pandemic does not add up to the struggle to cope up with hunger as well.

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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