Ashwini AYP Nomination

In Renigunta Mandal, tucked in Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh are 4 quaint villages which are soon going to see transformation; thanks to one fierce girl – Vengavasi Ashwini, currently a student of nursing, is on a mission!

Ashwini has recently been selected by Ashoka Youth Venture as a change maker and here’s why. As a student of nursing, she is working to debunk myths regarding personal hygiene and adolescent health and strengthen the community in adolescent care.

As a period of physical and psychological development to adulthood, adolescence is a crucial time, especially for girls. Due to the lack of awareness on personal hygiene and care, there is a high rate of illness and malnutrition among adolescent girls in this community. This added to the fact that child marriage and early motherhood is common, puts the girls in the villages at great risk.

When she enrolled in her course, she realized that her community had been following age-old practices which were in fact harmful and wanted to bring change to accepted systems such as child marriage and home-births. Poor economic conditions and larger caste based problems of the community generally push adolescent healthcare to a back seat.

Since majority of women and adolescents in her community lack education, Ashwini aims to utilize the knowledge she acquires, to spread awareness to them. She also intends to involve her fellow classmates to conduct frequent counseling sessions and create a forum for adolescent girls to discuss their problems. In addition to this, Ashwini is in the process of creating a handbook on adolescent health which will specifically address the issues in the community.

Ashwini believes that her approach will be impactful since unlike a traditional approach, she follows a peer-to-peer initiative which is based on shared comfort levels and openness with the expectation that sharing of thoughts of ideas and participation will be more. Also, since she is from the same community, she is able to tactfully address the issues since she has first-hand knowledge about them.

In the coming months, Ashwini is attempting to train 20 girls from across Chitoor who would in turn spread awareness in their communities. She would like to ensure that all children of her community, across 10 villages, are aware about basic adolescent healthcare and are capable of taking care of their own personal hygiene and menstrual health.

Here’s wishing Ashwini luck and we are sure she is going to be the force of change in her community!

THE HEALING TOUCH

The idea of resorting to a life of giving and serving the community may have struck many but is often brushed aside as a far-fetched idea. This however, wasn’t the case with Mrs. Samira Ahmed. Previously a teacher at Lady Havabai School in Pune, she felt that her knowledge could serve a greater purpose and soon she began her long and fruitful journey with Child Rights and You in December 2016.

Even though she had taught children before, her start at Pune public action group school was like treading unchartered waters. The first impediment when teaching young seventh graders was the low attendance rate of students in class. The ones who did show up would run away during the class. Before Mrs. Samira could find a viable solution she was transferred to a class of eighth graders. When questioned, Mrs. Samira explained that it was no fault of the children for they had faced negativity of all kinds in their early childhood. She further added that each one of these children were special and storehouses of talent. All they needed was to be believed and encouraged in.

Mrs. Samira while recalling her journey looks back at one particular incident that kept her from losing hope. One day, while on her way to her scheduled eighth grade class, she was informed by a fellow volunteer about the cancelation of the class. On her way back, she was approached by a few dozen seventh graders who demanded that she stay back and teach them instead. At that moment, she wasn’t entirely convinced about taking them up on their offer. But, after seeing how sincere the children were she decided that it was worth another try. What may have seemed as a regular ‘Choice of Career’ session for others was a life changing one for her and the students of seventh grade. The children were not only paying attention but showed genuine interest in what was being taught. A memorable relationship based on mutual trust had been established between both, student and teacher. As for Mrs. Samira, there was no looking back as a teacher now.

The course material for the class includes general subjects that also have practical use in everyday life such as choice of career, Science, Math, English, and Environment etc.

Among other subjects, she also taught Health and Nutrition to the children and says, “It took me a lot of effort to devise an interesting way to teach, because at the beginning children were hesitant to ask or attend classes, but as they became comfortable and involved, they yearned to study and learn new things.”

Student dropout rates almost nullified after their involvement and as children started working hard, they also learnt the value of discipline. Hence, creativity in teaching is simple, motivating and interesting.
Mrs. Samira is a Post Graduate in economics from Aligarh Muslim University and has done her B Ed. from Pune University. Apart from helping people she has been travelling to a lot of places all over the world with her husband, an investment banker. While she explored different places and met a lot of people, she realised few important things. Textbooks in schools have the same kind of examples and children look up to their teachers for new examples and methods of learning the same thing. She said, “Never hesitate to ask questions. Negativity goes away when you realise your capabilities.”

Mrs. Samira has learnt that her unique storytelling method of teaching is most effective when trying to explain complex ideas and topics. As an avid reader, Mrs. Samira uses stories that cross all boundaries of countries and culture. Little seventh graders are being instilled with important life skills inspired by the likes of Ramanujan, Radhakrishnan, Gandhi and Newton. The children are regularly tested every two months and involved in various activities and events. A recent activity involved the children to paint cards for the Border Security Force Jawans in Guwahati. Mrs. Samira’s passion for painting came to good use while assisting the children and honing their creative skills. The school will soon put remedial classes into action for the weaker students to make sure they can keep up with the rest of the class.

Mrs. Samira has personally noted a huge change in the children’s attitude towards life. They have now been instilled with hope and they all now, strive for a more dignified and purposeful life. She realizes the importance of the education of children from lower strata of society. For her, if this gap in not bridged, the entire nation will be at a loss.

“Working at CRY has broadened my horizon and facing and sharing hardships has made me more confident” says Mrs. Samira. In one of the incidents, she narrates how girls are still treated as weaklings by their parents. Education should be balanced and gender differences should be tackled from the grass-root level. One important mechanism to walk along positive volunteerism is to build relationships with whatever or whomever you work with.
While talking about her experience, she states how god has given each of us something and young adults and other people must understand that it should be used to do well towards the citizens and the nation.
“As a teacher, I wish to never stop learning and sharing my knowledge”

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Jagruti’s story is a live testimony to that.

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About Us

Child Rights and You (CRY) is an Indian non-profit that believes in every child’s right to a childhood – to live, learn, grow and play. For nearly 4 decades, CRY and its 200 partner NGOs have worked with parents and communities across 23 states to ensure sustainable change in the live of over 2 million underprivileged children.