Education has long been linked with the quality of life and health. Keeping that in mind, Khushboo Awasthi co-founded Mantra4Change, a non-profit organisation that aims to improve the world by using innovative project ideas to better education.
The non-profit aims to transform the Indian public education system and create a movement of education leaders to build sustainable, holistic and enriching learning experiences for millions of children.
Co-founder Khushboo Awasthi grew up in a middle-class family in a small town in Bihar in the 1990s. Awasthi had to abide by the limiting social norms that dictated what she could or could not do. Awasthi said, “Everything was predefined for women – what we could study, where we could work, how far we could go”.
She was fortunate enough to have parents who ignored the norms and ensured that she had the best possible pathway to quality education.
“I have personally experienced and hence, believe that education can open doors to possibilities and opportunities in life,” Awasthi shared.
After reflecting on her journey, she realised that education played a pivotal role in shaping her decisions and actions. With the knowledge that education played a critical role in the gender inequality landscape, Awasthi and her partner Santosh made it their mission to improve children’s learning experiences.
Mantra4Change partners with district, state, and national organisations to create solutions to improve school-level practices.
And finally, it builds solutions to address challenges that hamper the functioning of schools by providing an array of programs such as school leadership development, teacher support, and community engagement.
SheThePeopleTV got the opportunity to speak with Khushboo Awasthi about Mantra4Change and how strengthening the education ecosystem can improve the quality of life for women.
Interview With Khushboo Awasthi
As co-founder of the non-profit organisation, Khushboo Awasthi has seen an abundance of heartwarming stories in 9 years. However, one instance that comes to mind for Awasthi is an experience with one of the school principals.
Awasthi said, “When we began our intervention in the school, we saw her [the principal’s] apprehension in involving parents to co-create a school development plan. This would require her to create a safe space for sharing, listening, acceptance and respectful disagreement. A few weeks into the program, we saw her walking past her free of backlash from parents and conduct a participatory school mapping and develop a school improvement plan”.
Awasthi added that taking small steps, such as overcoming the fear of backlash and doing the right thing defines leadership.
Importance Of Female Role Models
“I feel that identity, whether gender-based or cultural, can be very limiting if one cannot dream beyond the conventional confines,” said Awasthi.
As somebody who grew up in a conventional family, higher education was not considered an obvious choice for the girls around her. Fortunately, Awasthi’s mother challenged this norm.
Awasthi grew up watching her mother leave for work every morning, taking pride in both her professional and paternal role. “In my mother, I saw who I could possibly become and what my journey could mean to others. I was fortunate to have a role model, an inspiring figure in my mother,” she said.
Awasthi says that having a positive role model is crucial for young girls as it invokes a sense of possibility and inspired them. She emphasised that this was especially imperative for young girls from vulnerable backgrounds.
“It changes the perspectives radically when one has role models who have exercised agency, broken the patriarchal barriers set for themselves, and have created a fulfilling life through education and exposure,” said Awasthi.
The question really is – how do we bring young girls to school and ensure that they stay in schools until they complete their education, and how do we enable more women in the leadership roles within the school system?
Why Is Education Important For Girls And Women?
The core idea behind making education accessible is building:
1. Voice, so that children, especially young girls, have the courage and ability to share ideas, opinions, and lead conversations.
2. Choice, so that children can make their own decisions and do not have to rely on the decisions their parents and relatives make for them.
3. Agency, as education directly and indirectly enables various forums for young girls and women to be self-aware of their strengths and weaknesses.
Awasthi said that the world’s daunting issues, such as climate, economy, health, etc. have adverse effects on vulnerable groups. She said, “recent events around the globe indicate the need to educate, empower and enable girls and women to be financially independent which in turn opens up the most basic yes expensive right for a woman – ‘choice(s)'”.
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