Across India, young women are increasingly leading and empowering communities through their innovative work. From creating free organic wigs for cancer patients to educating street kids, these confident young ladies are using their courage and creativity to ensure that India sees a brighter future. They may be young, but their passion for making a difference would inspire even the cynics!
Here are 5 stories of young Indian women taking chances and changing lives of people near and far. Get ready to be amazed and inspired by these champions of change!
1. Meera Sharma – Off with their tresses, for cancer!
Meera Sharma runs Tangled, an organisation that provides organic wigs to women fighting cancer. It all started when Meera found out that real hair wigs for cancer patients were prohibitively expensive (as high as Rs. 30,000) and that synthetic wigs were itchy and extremely uncomfortable. As the chairperson of the Rotaract Club of Women’s Christian College, Chennai, Meera decided to do something about this.
Along with her dedicated team at the club, Meera started by donating her own hair for the cause. Next, they partnered with the salon chain, Green Trends, and a wig-maker, Raj Hair Intl. Pvt. Ltd, who agreed to make natural hair wigs for them at a price of Rs. 4,500 per wig. These wigs are then distributed for free to the underprivileged cancer patients of the Cancer Institute. The cost of wig-making is borne by the sponsors whose generous contributions make this possible. Today, Tangled is working across India to provide free, organic wigs to cancer patients and boost their self-confidence.
2. Anjali Chandrashekhar – When a brush is mightier than the sword!
An aspiring industrial designer with passion for painting and sculpture, Anjali Chandrashekhar was just 16 when she raised funds for causes such as natural calamities, child abuse, and rehabilitation of underprivileged children through her artistic creations. In 2008, she used her artwork to raise around 3 lakh rupees at an International Diabetes Charity and used that money to provide insulin and medication to many poor diabetic children. She also won the third prize at the United Nations Poster for Peace Contest for her disarmament posters, Break Free and Cutting a Peace Deal.
A firm believer in the philosophy that art transcends barriers of age, language and literacy, 22-year-old Anjali has been working silently on her global social project, Picture It, for over a decade. Through it, she has been using her art to raise funds for various health, humanitarian and environmental causes.
3. Avani Singh – A rickshaw of hope!
A Delhi girl, Avani founded Ummeed, a program that trains women from the slums of Delhi to become taxi and rickshaw (electric rickshaws) drivers, when she was just 17. She started this initiative with a single electric rickshaw, donated by the local manufacturer, Green Wheels. To find a driver, Avani collaborated with the Delhi-based NGO CEQUIN to put out a call for volunteers in the Jamia area of the city. Soon, she had her first e-rickshaw driver, Kohinoor, who was delighted by the opportunity.
Today, Ummeed is giving many women a way to earn both a living and a level of physical and social mobility that was previously nearly impossible. Other than training underprivileged women to drive, it also provides and maintains the e-rickshaws.
4. Varsha Varghese – For the love of words!
It was Varsha Varghese’s love for books and her experience as a teaching volunteer in Make A Difference (MAD) that made her initiate the The Wordsworth Project. Along with college batchmates, Priyanka Roychowdhary and Rahul Sreekumar, Varsha decided to improve language competency in children. The trio firmly believed that since language is the medium through which all subjects are taught, better language skills would directly lead to better learning outcomes.
The Wordsworth Project works to create interactive reading spaces in low resource schools and learning centres, by equipping them with books catering specifically to the children’s reading level. Mindful that books alone cannot make language accessible, they have also recruited and trained volunteers who teach kids basic grammar through interactive activities. The volunteers also help map the individual progress of each child’s progress to help the team analyse the outcome of their efforts and take the necessary steps.
5. Rashi Anand – A better childhood for street kids!
Seeing the plight of children on the streets of Delhi compelled Rashi Anand to make a difference in their lives. Worried about how vulnerable these kids were to exploitation, Rashi set up Lakshyam, an NGO working for street and underprivileged children in Delhi when she was just 18. Her next step was to set up a Toy Library programme that provided pictorial books and educational toys to street kids. Till date, this programme has donated books and toys to over two lakh underprivileged children in India.
Today, Lakshyam has established several schools (called Sakshyam) for street kids in the slum areas of Delhi. The organization also conducts workshops with street children under flyovers, in red light areas and at railway stations to provide basic education and create awareness about issues like drug addiction. Thanks to Rashi’s efforts, Lakshyam has also expanded its work to states like Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
Most of us nurture a passion but few translate it into action. These 5 young women didn’t just dream about making a difference, they also built an effective social venture around a cause they were passionate about. Old or young, these go-getters are an inspiration to us all!