Finding Sisterhood at Sahasra Deepika

Finding Sisterhood at Sahasra Deepika

“…we shared a bond: a bond centered in a love for education and a will to fight and work until girls around the world are given what they deserve.” In my life, I am lucky enough to have my own little sister Riya who calls me Didi, meaning elder sister in Hindi. Living in an area where we are a minority, hearing the word Didi or encountering people who know what that means is very rare. We have run into countless situations where people are confused or on some occasions think my name actually is Didi and have started to call me that. After we exchange a quick smile and explain why we do this, usually people still do not understand the significance that this specific word has to our lives. For us, it is a symbol that we are connected, not only to our heritage, but to each other. While it is just a small thing, calling someone Didi, it highlights our sisterly bond. Didi, Akka, and Sister are words with different underlying meanings for every person and every relationship. Being called “Akka,” or “big sister,” while I was at Sahasra Deepika really meant something to me. It meant that me and the girls I met at Sahasra Deepika were truly connected. I had never experienced something so meaningful in such a short amount of time in my life. The feeling of a sisterhood  is exactly what I took away from my visit to Sahasra Deepika. I loved exchanging stories with Nagashree, learning from Kavya, and laughing with Triveni. It was not only these small interactions that impacted...
A Window to Sahasra Deepika

A Window to Sahasra Deepika

“No matter where a human being is on the planet we all have a common thread. We want to be loved and we want to have opportunities that make us grow and learn.” My summer internship experience with Ms. Media exceeded my expectations. A big reason it was so special was because I was introduced to the Sahasra Deepika Foundation for Education. Upon my arrival to Washington DC, the first client of Ms. Media that I had the pleasure of meeting was Sarva Rajendra. Sarva is the executive director of Sahasra Deepika, a school for underprivileged girls in India. I have always had a passion for work with the underprivileged. Hearing Sarva talk so passionately about Sahasra Deepika instantly captivated me and enchanted my heart. We were not just having a conversation about poverty, we were talking about education, girls and hope. I knew that I wanted to contribute to Sarva and her cause from that moment. Monika Samtani, my boss and mentor for my summer internship, entrusted me with the task of looking through all of the footage that she and her Ms. Media team filmed when they visited Sahasra Deepika a few years back. She handed over the hard drives to me and asked me to organize the footage and create vignettes for three of the girls who attend Sahasra Deepika. It was something I never done before, but I was eager to try it and make the most of the learning experience. I thought this is how I can contribute to the impeccable purpose of Sahasra Deepika. As I looked through the footage I saw the depth, the...
Time Flies

Time Flies

By educating a thousand girls, you create ripples of light which are felt by the subsequent generations of girls who are taught and inspired by the thousand points of light that preceded them. And they will continue the cycle of progress… Well, sophomore year is over.  This school year truly went by the fastest, but I know that I will say the same thing next year as I conclude junior year.  What makes time whoosh by almost imperceptibly, and why does the experience of time passing seem to only astonish me when I am reflecting upon it?  Although pinpointing one precise answer isn’t possible, I believe a substantial portion of the answer resides in the very experiences and activities that fill my time. I am a girl who lives without feeling the overbearing presence of a glass ceiling or the seemingly unshakable chains of socio-cultural stereotypes.  I am a student who has the privilege of attending a school in which I am encouraged and expected to thrive and succeed, both during and after high school. I am a daughter who comes home every day to a mother and father who love me unconditionally and provide me with all the opportunities I need to grow and learn.  I am a sister to my younger sister, who is treated and loved in the same ways.  I am spoiled.  Yet, I came into these extremely fortunate circumstances completely by chance—I had no control over the life into which I was born.  And neither does the girl who is forced into marriage at an age younger than me, the student who never has the...
While Women March, Girls Rule

While Women March, Girls Rule

“On a day of action, the Spelling Bee was a moment of hope; a small but bright light of possibility and joy in a world that needs it.” On Saturday, millions of people around the world marched under the banner of “women’s rights are human rights.” They raised their voices to demand equal pay, equal opportunity, the right to leave home without being harassed on the streets, and the right, as former Karnataka High Court Justice Ram Mohan Reddy stated so eloquently, “to live independently, the life and lifestyle they want.” The knowledge of one’s rights and the ability to exercise them at all begins with an education, a fundamental right that is too often denied to children in poverty, especially girls. 62 million girls worldwide are out of school. And their potential, their freedom, and opportunity to live a life they want are dreams denied.  While the marchers raised their battle cry from Washington, D.C. to Antarctica, a quiet yet powerful statement was being made at Sahasra Deepika’s 8th Annual Spelling Bee in Bangalore. Children from poor government schools, children whose lack of fluency in English can often keep them in a lower strata, were given an opportunity through our Outreach Program to learn English. In cooperation with our corporate sponsor, Societe Generale Global Solutions CSR, over 4,500 9th standard students received tutoring in English. Kids who rarely, if ever, are applauded for their talents were given an opportunity to shine. The 166 finalists from 42 schools competed in the day-long challenge with enthusiasm and excitement. And at the end, four girls prevailed. The winner, Vinutha, faces many challenges...
Resolve to Make a Difference in 2017

Resolve to Make a Difference in 2017

“Instead of looking at New Year’s as a chance to just reflect on ourselves, let us take this opportunity to think about those in need in our communities, nationally, and globally.” The New Year marks the chance for a fresh start. People take time to spend with friends and family, resolutions are made, and essentially, we are presented with an opportunity to improve ourselves. We are basically given a chance to hit a “reset button” on our lives, as we reflect on the past year and prepare ourselves for what lies ahead. Yet, not all children are given this chance for a new start every time January 1st rolls around. Some are stuck in cycles of poverty, oppression, and overall discrimination–especially girls. According to UNESCO, about 66 million girls worldwide are unable to go to school. Instead of looking at New Year’s as a chance to just reflect on ourselves, let us take this opportunity to think about those in need in our communities, nationally, and globally. Not only can we resolve to have a deeper understanding of the world’s issues, but we can also begin making a difference, large or small. Here is a quick start…a few facts about the issue of girls education: A girl with an extra year of education can earn 20% more as an adult. In Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, there would be a 10% decrease in the amount of girls under 17 who become pregnant if they were given an education. A child born to a mother who can read is 50% more likely to survive past the age of 5. India’s GDP...
Breaking Stereotypes, One Girl at a Time

Breaking Stereotypes, One Girl at a Time

“I am thankful that places like Sahasra Deepika exist. It gives me hope, that one day I will live in a society where being an Indian woman is not defined by stereotypes…” Being an Indian girl, while being raised in America and attending a predominately white school has its challenges; whether it be the difference in culture, religion, or ways of thinking. I have been fortunate enough to go to a school that strives to embrace differences and accept those with unique religious and cultural backgrounds. While the school itself embodies messages of diversity, it is hard to leave biases behind and embark on complete open-mindedness. Often times society instills racist, untrue, and hurtful messages within us and we subconsciously oblige. I have just finished 10th grade and am now starting to notice how our society acts towards those who are different, or those that they do not completely understand. Not only do I realize the unfair treatment that has been dealt to others, but I am starting to understand how I am also treated differently because of my ethnicity, in a place where I am a minority. I can recall a moment in the 6th grade while reading the book, Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan. In the book a 13- year old Indian girl is forced into an arranged marriage, with no say in the matter. The book then follows her through her married life. Her husband dies soon after marriage and her in-laws are so horrible that they leave her alone in the city. The students in my 6th grade class had not yet had any lessons...