START UP!


Start Up! is an angel investor, incubator, and consultant to social entrepreneurs and social ventures at different stages in their lifecycle – early, growth and maturity. The Optimist Citizen provided content support in bringing out grassroots stories of women leaders for The Women Exemplar Programme 2019, run by The CII Foundation, supported by their Due Dilligence partner Start Up!

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I was 6 then. Out of intense frustration, my mother smothered me and my siblings in Kerosene. She was about to light a match stick when a neighbor intervened. Even after 23 years, the fetid smell of Kerosene sends shivers down my neck. Our house was in a constant crisis. As a Muslim man, religious precedent allowed my father to marry multiple times. My mother was his second wife. Initially, she bore him 2 daughters, rather than a son. Thus, the unwanted sentiment for a girl was rampant. My father often used to beat my mom. Somedays, I would see her nosebleed, other days, I would see strike marks on her back. As an avenue to earn, my mother would stock kerosine and sell it for a margin of Rupees 20. But, my mother fought hard to educate me. She sold whatever trinkets of jewelry we had, sold kerosene, but it was not enough. I started making kites when I was in 6th grade and by the time, I was in 10th grade, I had started picking up embroidery and stitching skills. Since a kid, I had studied in a girls' school. But, college was nauseating. Moreover, whenever I would come out of my house, I was constantly taunted by local hoodlums. So, eventually, in 2007 I dropped out of college. But, I never felt fulfilled in just stitching clothes. Without informing my parents, I got in a computer course organized by local NGO Swayam in my neighborhood of Metiabruz, Kolkata. What started as a faint interaction, turned into a passion for me. Since 2010, I have been working full-time with Swayam, first as a community mobiliser and now as a caseworker. Along with 20 girls, I started a center for data processing. Today the center employs 300 girls and women from the community. We, provide 24* 7 Support To survivors of violence, have mobilised ward groups to exercise vigil against domestic violence and also conduct sessions on gender and patriarchy. 'Working with Swayam, Dulari Khatoon had reached out to 54,010 community members through awareness programmes, in 2018 itself. She was selected as a finalist of the CII Foundation’s Women Exemplar Program in 2018, supported by Due Diligence Partner Start Up! You too can nominate a women grassroots leader for 2019.Info in bio!'

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I remember my first day at Prerna. I must have been 10, had dropped out of school for more than a year, and they asked me this seemingly unanswerable question. ‘What did I dreamt of becoming when I grew up?’. No one had ever asked me that. How can a girl from a Dalit community, who had dropped out of school and was working as a domestic help in lieu of her ill mother, can possibly have dreams. But, I shakily answered, ‘photographer! That’s what I want to become!’. Growing up in Lucknow, in a family of seven, money was always a problem. We belonged to the Dalit community of Dhobis (washermen). My father worked as a Dhobi and my mother worked as domestic help. When I was in class 4th, my mother fell ill and I and my siblings had to drop out of school because we couldn’t study solely on our father’s income. I started helping my mother out as a maid in the houses that she worked. After a year or so, I was approached by the teacher of Prerna Girls School – an alternative school for underprivileged girls – and my life has never been the same. I used to go to weddings as a kid and was always fascinated by the camera. I knew this was what I liked. With the help of teachers at Prerna, I started learning the craft. By the time I finished up school in 2012, I joined as the program and content manager of Digital Study Hall, a Lucknow based non-profit. I conceptualize, shoot, edit, and disseminate videos of innovative classroom sessions conducted by model teachers on various aspects of the K-12 (Kindergarten to Class 12) curriculum. To date, we have created and published over 2000 videos. These videos have directly impacted 100,000 individuals, including underserved students and teachers in the rural belt of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Moreover, through our Youtube channel, these videos have been viewed more than 7 million times. Moni Kannaujia was selected as a finalist of the CII Foundation’s Women Exemplar Program in 2018, supported by Due Diligence Partner Start Up! You too can nominate a women grassroots leader for 2019. Information in Bio!

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I was married off at the age of 13, and life changed drastically – for the worse. Growing up in a sugarcane cutting family in the Baej district of Maharasthra, my parents were absent for a substantial part of the year. I lived with my grandmother. Since I was a kid, I saw the wrath of drought on our village. Every year thousands, grief-stricken with their withered lands, migrated to other regions in the country to work as sugarcane cutters. I might have been in 8th grade when I was married off. My in-laws constantly forced me to work all day. Even a hint of insubordination would lead to days without food for me, added with a persistent doling of beatings. I was lied to about my husband’s employment too. Neither could I talk to my in-laws, nor could I make a plea to my parents. There is a saying in my village that once a girl is married, she could only come on a pyre, on the day of her death. So, I couldn’t come back. But I reached my limit when my in-laws schemed and pushed me down a well. I stayed in the well the whole night, drenched, constantly thinking about my son. That week, I took my son and came back to my parents. In the year 2000, I got in touch with a friend in Aurangabad, and started working there as a maid. There was a member of an NGO who used to frequently visit the place I worked in. She used to work with women. I told my whole story to the lady and I started working with the NGO worked with them for over 5 years. In 2008, I came back to my district and approached a group of women to start our organization, Navchetna (Renaissance). We primarily solve fundamental issues pestering rural women like domestic violence, emotional subjugations, and financial limitations. We started working with SHG’s in 10 villages. Today, we work with 3000 SHGs and 30000 women in 11 blocks of the district. We have also helped hundreds of families gain rightful employment by connecting them with NABARD and other institutional support systems. Manisha Ghule was selected as a finalist of the CII Foundation’s Women Exemplar Program in 2017, supported by Due Diligence Partner @startup_india! You too can nominate a women grassroots leader for 2019. Link in bio

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