Aashini is passionate about reducing inequalities and socio-economic barriers and creating a just and kind society. Primarily focused on the fields of mental health and education, she has worked extensively with a range of organisations to add value and create impact. Most notably, her experiences at _Spining Wheel Leadership Foundation, SANG -Youth Collective and Muktha Foundation have provided her with the opportunity to understand how significantly social context influences the interventions one implements at the grassroot level, and more importantly, have grounded and humbled her. She also completed the Young India Fellowship which strengthened her commitment towards the social sector. She strongly believes that society, and in particular, people with privilege, must use our skills to combat inequalities and make the world kinder and better.
VOLUNTEERING FOR ME
Through volunteering I try to fill the gap in spaces which bothers me, it helps me to use my skills and time for something where I can add value and meaning. It is a reminder that we all are a part of a community, and we should contribute our time and skills in the way we can. It should not be seen as a grand work but only human. I believe that when people come together to volunteer for a cause, then gradually things change for the good.
It's been more than 5 years since I am volunteering. Education and mental health, two major areas where I wanted to contribute, and I could do it through volunteering. When I started working with children to teach, it was for a really short period, but it made me feel really good about sharing my skills as well as kept me grounded. It reminded me of my privileges, which otherwise get ignored. Also, I realized each one of us has immense potential, but lack of resources makes this world a broken place. The progress which I threw my little efforts of volunteering is something which motivates and inspires me to continue to do so. It also gives me a hope that if all of us give our bit to the things which creates inequalities and suffering in this world, then this world would get better.
I started working in personal capacity at the age of 16 with four students studying in primary classes on improving reading and numeracy skills. All of them came from underprivileged households and were studying low income private schools. I started teaching them at home and I enjoyed teaching them. I could also see the results of my efforts through their progress. When I shifted to Pune for my higher studies, I was keen on looking for a place where I can work with children in teaching capacity. Through my college I got to know about Mitra Foundation and I joined them as a dance and English teacher for children of construction workers. I was preparing them to perform at a fundraising event. These funds could bring a lot of difference in their standard of living and quality of education. This volunteering period was really short, but it made me feel really good about sharing my skills as well as kept me grounded. During my internship with centre for mental health and services in teach for India schools, I worked on spreading awareness around menstrual hygiene, prevention of child sexual abuse and substance abuse. These interactions with children made me feel close to them, and I continued working in the spaces where I could teach them something useful. Later, I worked on a campaign to promote awareness around child sexual abuse in bangalore and taboos attached with mental health. While pursuing my young india fellowship I got to work as well as interact with Govt. Collaborated non-pofits to structurally address the issues in education system. One of the most valuable experiences of volunteering for me would be at Sang-youth collective to come together with batchmates in the toughest of times and provide ration kits and listening aid to most vulnerable communities. It taught me the power of volunteering and then further motivated me to work in tribal/rural areas of Udaipur to provide life skills education. A right set of education has the power to help these children to move upwards in social mobility ladder.
Spreading awareness about menstrual hygiene among young adolescent girls of tribal areas and creating a community library spaces for all govt. School students
ORGANISATION Spinning Wheel Leadership Foundation
MISSION & VISION
These projects aimed at creating awareness around menstrual hygiene among young adolescent girls in triba/rural areas and provide a learning space for students who did not have access to online tools of learning or any other avenues.
Since the March 2020 lockdown, millions of rural women have lost access to safe sanitary services due to economic and social effects of the pandemic. I work with tribal communities of Rajasthan where the existing condition of period poverty worsened in the last 1 year. Hence, I decided to design a project where I partnered with a non-profit “Project Baala” to provide sanitary napkin kits (includes 3 napkins) and training sessions to 2,500 young girls. In the tribal belts where we work a very small section of it uses sanitary napkins while others rely on a piece of cloth and sand. Most girls rely on home-grown or other readily available material, the latter often being unhygienic. By providing these kits, I initiated a conversation which has the potential to improve menstrual hygiene among 2,500 women and more in the future. While speaking to these girls, I noticed that they felt embarrassed about menstruation and had never engaged in a dialogue around it. It was challenging but at the end rewarding to provide a safe and open space for them to talk about it. To measure the impact I have to make database of girls whom I have spoken to and given these kits. After a period of 2 months call will be made to understand the benefits, drawbacks and further needs of these kits. According to the feedback we will work on catering better. Apart from this self-initiated project in the organisation, I have helped with in designing the structure and identifying spaces within the communities where I work for setting up community libraries. During lockdown, one of the harsh realities which we identified was lack of access to online tools or learning and other avenues for children in these areas. Hence, we collected over 2000+ books and started setting up libraries in villages to resume learning through reading sessions and classes on different literacies. Lastly, I designed a curriculum on civic literacy to foster civic consciousness
LENGTH OF SERVICE
400+ Hours spent
ROLE IN PROJECT
I initiated the idea of this project and worked on finding right organisations to collaborate for getting the reusable napkin kits. I spoke to a lot of people working in this area and learnt about the ways in which menstrual hygiene workshops and distribution of napkins is happening at various places. I looked at the ways through it can be made sustainable. The biggest value which I bought to this project was dedication and commitment. This was my first large-scale project to be implemented in villages, which made it challenging at a lot of points. I was determined to learn how best to collaborate and take this project to ground. It helped me gain confidence that when there is an idea and a need, through consistency and commitment one can make things possible. It has motivated me to initiate more projects.
IMPACT OF PROJECT
The biggest impact which I identified and received in the form of verbal feedback through my audience was to create a safe and open space for these girls to talk about periods. I touched upon the biological process, social taboos and stigmas, hygiene, precautions and does and don't’s about menstruation. This was new for them, as the villages where I am conducting these workshops are among the remotest areas and are restricted to traditional practices. Introducing them to the idea of reusable napkins for periods was also an achievement. Through the library program, the biggest impact we are creating is resuming children’s learning and developing a culture of reading.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being
GOAL 4: Quality Education
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality
Certified peer counselor by One Future Collective
Initiated a project, @inkingthewound, to promote stories of healing and hope
Conducted stress management workshops
Selected for a course in Minority Rights and Advocacy Toolkit by a European non-profit minority rights international organisation
Designed and initiated projects in tribal communities
Worked on creating awareness around mental health through workshops, open mics and telephonic listening aid.
I intend to continue working in the education sector in the remotest of areas as I feel children in these areas are more deprived of the holistic experience of education. To help them move upwards in the social ladder, it is important to provide them with the right set of life skills education. I would like to collaborate with more organizations and volunteers who can help in creating sustainable impact in the areas of life skills education. I also want to create awareness around mental health and well-being among young adolescents and adults. I have already started volunteering with a startup, In-Mind, to teach high-school students about different concepts related to mental health. The Gulmohar Foundation emphasis on the importance of mobilising the youth and their belief in youth’s ability to influence change complements my vision to empower them, as through empowerment will the young be equipped to tackle challenges posed by the world.
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