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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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Goonj Is Working With 1000’s Of Volunteers & Partner NGOs To Provide Covid-19 Relief In 18 States

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With the extension of the lockdown the crisis of migrant labourers and daily wagers has just grown bigger due to uncertainty and fear of future. In the migrant colonies, slums and for people in the villages hunger and desperation is building up day by day. This is high time we step up our efforts to support our people who are in dire need of food and hygiene essentials to survive the pandemic, Covid-19.

After the India-wide lockdown, a lot of jobless migrant workers are stuck in cities with hardly any resources while many started retreating back to their villages. With the loss of livelihoods, a large number of them are now struggling to support their families.

Goonj activated its pan India teams and a pan India network of partner organizations and volunteers in urban and rural India. This network, built over the last two decades, helps them learn from the ground, reach material quickly and review and adapt strategy periodically. Intensifying this network has helped Goonj reach and start work across 17produced states/UT in the last three weeks.
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KHAANACHAHIYE: Fighting Hunger In COVID19

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Goonj’s focus: 

Majority of the Covid-19 relief work by non profits right now is in the metros and cities but Goonj is the only non profit that is also simultaneously focusing on the people in the villages and the ones stuck on highways or somewhere.

Goonj is targeting daily wagers, migrants and other vulnerable groups, who even traditionally are left out like the disabled, sex workers, LGBTQ community.

“COVID-19 is a crisis, yes…But, it’s also an opportunity for us to build the society anew. Not ‘for’ the people…but, ‘with’ the people. And in the process, we will build ourselves too.” – Anshu Gupta, Founder-Director, Goonj.

Direct Monetary and Material Transfer

Wherever Goonj got the permission to open their centres for packing and disbursement of relief material kits, they are creating a kit consisting of 20-30 kgs material including dry rations, masks, sanitary pads and other hygiene material and reaching them to people, as per needs and as per regulations with all safety precautions. This kit will help a family survive for 30 days.

Information till 10th April 2020:

  • Distributed 15,100 ration kits reaching thousands of people
  • Reached 17,700 families
  • Supporting 12 community kitchen across India with 16,600kgs of ration
  • 77,800 food packets provided to migrant laborers and daily wagers walking on the roads across the country.
  • Provided direct financial support to 32 organisations
  • Made 42,800 cloth face masks
  • 24,900 cloth sanitary napkins produced
  • Produced 1500 litres of organic sanitiser

In Goonj’s processing centers its trained team of women are making cloth face masks and cloth sanitary pads (MY-Pads), keeping all the precautions and with the permission and cooperation of the local authorities.

In this lock-down phase if you are facing any difficulty getting sanitary pads or you are running out of stock, here’s a detailed but very simple process of making Cloth Pads at home created by Goonj. “This is how we make Goonj MY Pads.” This is how our mothers and grandmothers turned their spare cloth into pads.

This disaster, unlike any other, is unprecedented in its scale and impact and that’s why we all must do our bit with Goonj to continue its relief work for millions of people in this still unfolding long-tailed disaster.

The need is huge.. We are there.. Need You too !!

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It's not how much we give
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- Mother Theresa Quote
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