Poverty, hunger, child marriage, and climate change are among the few problems claiming the lives of many people in India. While the government has a role to play in policymaking and effective implementation, one cannot turn a blind eye to issues at hand.
It is in these times that several people stay true to the spirit of being “the change you want to see in the world’. Many Indian women are working towards social good and change, spreading awareness, and then inspiring others to make conscious decisions.
Activist Kriti Bharti, who started the Saarthi Trust in 2011, has been instrumental in annulling over 29 child marriages and stopping more than 850 in Rajasthan.
After approaching the girl’s parents and convincing them against the marriage, Saarthi focusses on two fronts – tackling the legal system to stop these marriages and rehabilitating the child. Kriti and her team provide counselling to children, families, and panchayats, and have rehabilitated more than 6,000 children and 5,500 women.
To ensure that these young girls have a safe and independent future ahead, the organisation also looks after the child’s education, vocational training, and employment opportunities, among other things.
In order to tackle the rampant child marriage in the state, Saarthi Trust also organises camps in villages in anganwadis (rural child care centres), schools, and other public places. With participation from older women who were married off at a young age, they organise discussions on the ill-effects of child marriage.
Despite having received more than a hundred death threats, the trust also runs a helpline to report child marriages anywhere in the state.
Visual artist and activist Anjali Chandrashekhar uses her art to raise funds and awareness on the humanitarian crisis, climate change, among other social issues. These are done through a global social project called Picture It, founded in 2008 when Anjali was only 16-years-old.
Anjali Chandrashekhar was just 16 when she raised funds for causes such as natural calamities, child abuse. pic.twitter.com/nDjdgHXpix— letlivefoundation (@letlivefoundat1) November 5, 2016
Her paintings have been showcased at international auctions to raise funds for numerous issues from supporting diabetes research to NGOs working against child abuse, cerebral palsy, and Parkinson's disease, and buying insulin for children in developing countries.
Now 27, Anjali holds a bachelor’s degree in of Industrial Design from Pratt University and a Master’s from the School of Visual Design, New York. While she was associated with corporates like Delloite and Questonno in New York, her paintings have also been bought by UNESCO, UNICEF. Anjali was also recognised as a British Council Changemaker.
Activist Ria Sharma founded Make Love Not Scars, an NGO that helps acid attack survivors by providing legal, medical, educational, vocational, and psychological services, in 2014.
It all began when she was a student at Leeds College of Art in UK and had come to India to make a documentary on acid attack survivors.
Based in Delhi, her organisation also ran a campaign called End Acid Sale, demanding a ban on retail acid sales in the country. Ria’s efforts have been internationally recognised and she received the British Council's Social Impact Award in 2016, and the CNBC India Business Leader Award in 2017. The 27-years-old also became the first Indian to ever to win the UNICEF Global Goal Awards.
Arushi Batra is the Co-founder of the Robin Hood Army, which collects excess food from restaurants to distribute it at slum areas and orphanages, to patients at public hospitals, and people at old age homes. The volunteer organisation is now present in 27 cities across four countries, with over 5000 volunteers who are known as ‘robins’.
In 2016, the organisation branched out to start the Robin Hood Academy, empowering less privileged children with primary education. It also interacts with parents and educates them on the importance of sending children to school.
The volunteers then help in getting their children admitted to government schools and arrange necessary tools as well.
Environmental activist Ridhima Pandey caught the attention of the media as India’s own ‘Greta Thunberg’ when she was among the 16 children activist speaking at the UN on climate change in September 2019.
But the Uttarakhand-born activist has been raising concerns around environmental issues in her own state since 2017. At nine, she filed a petition against the Indian government in the National Green Tribunal, asking the government to take “effective, science-based action to reduce and minimise the adverse impacts of climate change”. She took the petition further to the Supreme Court, demanding action.
Ridhima, whose parents are working for forest and wildlife conservation, has also led several Fridays For Future marches in India.
Arushi is an internationally acclaimed Kathak dancer, social activist, film producer, and entrepreneur. The activist uses her skills and talents to bring the spotlight on the right issues by actively promoting campaigns for social good.
She is the face of numerous campaigns focussed on the restoration and conservation of Ganga. This includes being the national ambassador of Sparsh Ganga that was started in 2009, being a key promoter of Namami Gange Mission, which is a central government’s project to clean the Ganga. The 33-year-old also presents the importance of the river through kathak performances.
At the same time, Arushi is actively engaged in promoting the government initiative Beti Bachao Beti Padhao to empower girls in the country.
Garvita was 15-years-old when she learnt that the water left behind in glasses in restaurants amount to wasting nearly 14 million litres of water every day. It was also the year that many Indian states were battling drought situations.
Garvita founded Bengaluru-based organisation Why Waste? and promoted the Glass Half Full Initiative. Her request to restaurants to pour glass half full of water in order to avoid wastage was only taken seriously by few restaurants. Today, having partnered with the National Restaurant Association of India, more than one lakh restaurants in India are on board with the initiative.
Now, a student of Electronics and Communication Engineering at PES University in Bengaluru, Garvita was recognised as an Ashoka Youth Venturer in 2016, and became the first-ever Ashoka Young Changemaker in 2018.
In August 2019, the now 20-year-old changemaker was in Washington DC to be a part of the interview process of the candidates for Ashoka Young Changemakers. She also sits on the board of Changemaking Centre at the University of San Diego, and is part of the State of Youth, based in New York.