At the start of every New Year, I think of the surprises a new year will bring, the new things I shall learn, the many opportunities awaiting me for the future. And every time, I think on how fortunate I am to have received an excellent education, and to have a supportive network to challenge me and carry me along the way.
It was exactly this very same thought that led me to design the HEMLATA H100 initiative, as a social innovation project. The H100 is a focussed program focussing on the sustainable development goals of #4-Quality education and SDG #5- Gender Equality.
Years and decades of patriarchy have resulted in the female gender being conveniently pushed aside, with the advantage going to the male child over the female. Women are still targeted into gender-based roles and their independence is crushed. In a country filled with paradoxes, where female infanticide exists in hushed tones, the necessity for women to be educated, to learn and to have their voices heard, has never been higher.
At HEMLATA 100 we believe in changing the given narrative – ensuring a chance at Equity in order to achieve Equality. With the help of local organisations on the ground, the initiative identifies girls from India’s lowest socio-economic strata, girls with grit and determination, who have no means to further education post their school. Once the criteria Is matched, she is enrolled into the program as a H100 Scholar. The H100 Scholarship provides a young girl the opportunity to quality tertiary education in an accredited college by means of an all-inclusive, holistic scholarship.
The H100 Scholarship encompasses all aspects of education – Tuition, Lodging, Meals, and even pocket money to cover mobile date and sanitary napkins. Once the basics are secured, we bring in the 3 pillars of the initiative – Mentorship, Life-Skills and inter-disciplinary learning.
To bring in diversity of thought, each girl or H100 Scholar is accompanied by a Mentor, specifically a woman who lives outside of India, is a business or corporate head and who is committed to accompanying the Scholar during her entire 3-year college journey.
Our Scholars also learn non-cognitive skills, or Life skills based on the WHO standards, designed by professional coaches. A series of 10 topics is discussed and feedback, evaluated.
Finally, a variety of inter-disciplinary topics, rounds of the program. Bi-monthly webinars are held on a variety of topics to generate curiosity and new learning. Hosted by young women in India and abroad, these webinars provide our Scholars a way of coming together and to identify themselves with young women across the world. Another Peer learning method that we use is to conduct camps for Scholars to experience and understand the environment and nature. In doing all of the above, we are expanding horizons, creating an understanding of differences in cultures and broadening perspectives.
Scholars who successfully navigate the outdoor learning modules, are presented with Environmental certificates and Scholars who successfully complete our program, receive the HEMLATA 100 certificate of Excellence.
Every Scholar who receives a certificate of excellence, is also supported by HEMLATA to for an internship opportunity.
The only way to support quality education is by taking a focussed and intense approach. At HEMLATA we believe in working with individuals and not worrying about scale and numbers. As each Scholar goes through the education process, finds a safe space with her individual mentor, learns the tools of non-cognitive skills, and builds curiosity through peer learning, she knows she has a chance to change her future. With every year into the initiative, she acknowledges her chance to discover opportunities, to change the lives of her families and her community. And that she now has to meet the same challenge that she overcame, to become an advocate for education, a changemaker to carry others along the way.
To every young girl, I say, your time is now! Step forward and hold the future!!