We forget quickly and get on with our lives, even when it comes to one of the most heinous crimes we have witnessed – the Nirbhaya gang rape. The incident left an indelible mark on many but two youngsters from Delhi decided to do more than just mourning. They decided to do everything in their capacity to educate women and girls on how to protect themselves.
Smriti Singhal and Kunal Arora launched the ‘Jo Mera Hai Woh Mera Hai (What is mine, is mine)’ initiative in 2012. With over 1,000 freeze mobs, flash mobs, and street plays to educate girls and women, the campaign is still running strong. They’ve recently associated with the Delhi Police, designing awareness programmes for them, and to promote women safety and empowerment.
Jo Mera Hai Woh Mera Hai is a campaign under The Education Tree (TET), an organisation founded by Smriti and Kunal in 2012. It is a youth-led organisation that aims to foster and facilitate all forms of education, with a goal to lay special emphasis on the holistic development of the individual along with awakening a social consciousness in citizens. The organisation operates across a network of different schools and universities, giving a platform to all the students to follow their passion and create it into something meaningful, even turn it into a viable career choice.
TET has physical presence in 100+ colleges, has partnered with 25+ schools, and has collectively reached out to more than five lakh students.
Smriti and Kunal met while pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from SGTB Khalsa College in Delhi University. Both hold a Master’s degree in Mass Communication as well.
In the second year of college, the duo got into a conversation about dissolving stereotypes in education. Smriti was often mocked by one of her professors for not attending class and spending her time in other extra-curricular activities. She believed that these activities helped her be an all-rounder and was education as well, but her professor thought otherwise. Kunal was always interested in theatre and wanted to communicate the idea that people can have different interests and it’s not just the formal education that helps you be a change-maker.
The pair envisaged a platform where scholastics would be all-inclusive. The undercurrent was to break the dysfunctional mould of education through art, music, theatre, craft, photography etc., and to give holistic education a push. Smriti adds, “The activities that we use are different, fun, and largely new to the Delhi scene, and there is a greater chance of seeing people respond to these creative, innovative methods. We want to impart sound education through various workshops and projects. We’re agnostic to the socio-economic backgrounds and want young India to aspire to realise their goals through rational and carefully-designed programmes that benefit specific groups in small yet substantial ways.”
The TET team conducted a survey in a number of Kendriya Vidyalya schools to understand the problems faced by students. The data pointed out to two pain points – lack of access to books at the secondary level for students and the lack of guidance given to students who are at the brink of choosing streams and feel like they’re making an uninformed choice.
This gave birth to TET’s very first initiative – ‘Project Emerge’, under which free books and stationery was distributed to underprivileged school students. TET also tied up with NGOs that helped these students with career counselling sessions. TET also conducts workshops for students interested in dance, craft, and theatre. “It’s not just about holistic education but a release from everyday struggles for these underprivileged kids,” adds Kunal.
TET holds ‘The Youth Leadership Summit’, a three-day residential conference, wherein a person is celebrated for his/her individuality. They go through a set of workshops and sessions, aimed at transforming him/her into a visionary leader. Another such conference is the ‘Meet Your Self’ conference which focusses on self-development. TET also designs and organises workshops and corporate training to help individuals be job-ready.
TET has recently ventured into youth marketing and engagement projects that help foster growth among students associated with them by providing corporate exposure. Kunal adds, “Under this we run campus ambassadorship programmes and brand building activities, which also serves as the revenue model of the organisation.”
TET is a bootstrapped venture. The revenue comes from workshops in schools, colleges, conferences, and corporates. The recent initiative of youth marketing and engagement also brings in revenue. “We have collaborated with Askme.com, Uber, Oyo Rooms, PVR Cinemas, and Organic Harvest. The collaborating partner gets the benefit of having a direct reach to the target group and personalised branding in the form of campus ambassador programmes, one-to-one interactions, etc.”
Smriti says that currently they have a hold on almost all the colleges under Delhi University and Indra Prasth University. She adds, “In 2015, around 10,000 students applied to be a part of the organisation. Of these, 500 were selected to become the face of the organisation in their respective campuses, and help us furthering our aim through various activities.”
Recognition has come TET’s way. They received a letter of appreciation from Milind Deora, former Minister of State with the Ministry of Information Technology and Communications, and from the Deputy Commissioner of Police, North Delhi applauding TET’s effort in designing awareness-based programmes for Delhi Police.
Smriti and Kunal talk about the challenges in social entrepreneurship.
It’s not about commercial value. We have to think of the consequence of every decision from multiple perspectives. It is often believed that a social enterprise isn’t a commercially viable one. But we are here to break that myth. We need to focus on our long-term objectives, our true mission, whilst generating adequate profits to sustain ourselves and the business. It can be quite challenging,
On their long-term plans, Kunal says that they’re trying to bridge the gap between corporates and students. Smriti adds that they want to take all their initiatives and programmes to a wider audience and amplify the lessons they hope to spread.