Aarti Naik

Here is some more about Aarti’s truly inspiring story and work, including a brief Q&A that we did:

Getting to Know Aarti (a short Q&A)

1.  If you were meeting someone for the first time, how would you describe yourself -briefly?  What would you want people to know about you. 

I am slum-based young girl Changemaker from suburban slum area of Mumbai, India.  Five year ago, I started my social venture – SAKHI for Girls Education, especially for slum-based girls.  Since 2008, I have been building basic educational capacities of slum-based girls, so they will able to complete their school confidently with quality learning.  My main focus is on basic literacy, numeracy, and life skills building with life-long learning approach.

2.  If you were to meet someone while waiting in line for (insert something specific), how would you describe your work in a few sentences?
The social venture – SAKHI for Girls Education – main purpose is to create safe and quality learning spaces especially for slum-based girls who are living / learning in difficult situations.  So slum-based girls will able to access ‘girls learning space’ where they will get ample opportunities to build their basic educational capacities such as basic literacy and numeracy skills with life skills building activities.  Because I strongly believe that every slum girl has her own unheard and unseen story of struggle and challenges to continue her school.  So, in the long-run, due to the continuous support of SAKHI, every slum-based girl will able to complete her school confidently with quality learning.  SAKHI means a female friend of girls who supports, guides, and inspires other girls for their good cause.
3.  What inspired/motivated you to undertake this work?
My own life experiences of struggle and challenging situations to complete my school have inspired me to initiate my social venture – SAKHI for Girls Education.  Five year ago, I was a slum-based school drop-out girl, there was not any hope to continue my education.  But many thanks to Ashoka`s Youth Venture.  They built my confidence – Yes!  I Can Dream It!  I Can Do It!  During 2008, I was a slum-based school drop-out girl.  I strongly wanted to continue my school education, but there was no one to support me to come out of this difficult situation.  As a slum-based school drop-out girl, gradually I realized the slum-based girl’s situation and a question raised in mind that “if there is no one to support and guide my slum based girls basic education at her family, school and slum community, then who will take care of her basic education?  And, the answer came in my mind, “Yes, I Can!”
4. Impact can be defined in different ways.  How do you define impact when it comes to the work you do, and what has been your impact thus far?
 Five year ago, I started my SAKHI`s Girls Education Project with 6 girls, and today more than 100 girls are benefiting from different educational initiatives of SAKHI for Girls Education. Continuous basic educational capacity building with life skills is enhancing the confidence of girls to continue their school with quality learning. Initially my slum based girls were struggling to read and write, vocabulary level was very poor, confidence was very low, motivation to learning was very low, and therefore they were not able to participate actively in their school`s daily class based activities.

In this situation, SAKHI`s daily basic educational capacity building activities with slum girls at their slum community level, where they got continuous opportunity to build their basic literacy and numeracy skills. Today they are able to read and write effectively and also they are going to school confidently and learning well. Also availability of Basic English books has increased the vocabulary level of slum girls.

Today more than 100 girls are continuously getting an opportunity to access ‘girls learning space’ at their own slum community, where they come together to participate in SAKHI`s educational programs such as Girls Learning Center, Girls Book Bank, Girls Computer Center and Girls Livelihood School.

5.  What do you ultimately hope to have accomplished through your project 5 years from now? 
I have dream that in next five years, my social venture – SAKHI for Girls Education will reach around 1000 girls from suburban slum areas of Mumbai. By creating safe and quality learning space at their own slum area, they will get ample of opportunities to build their basic literacy, numeracy and life skills with life long learning approach.  So every slum based girl will able to complete her school confidently with quality learning.
6.  Who has been your role model/mentor, and why?
My role model is Savitribai Phule who was the first female teacher of first girls school in India. Every day she inspires me to continue my slum girls education and her contribution and dedication gives me strength to face my life challenges confidently.
7.  What advice or wisdom would you offer to young people (in any country) growing up today? 
Never give up with odd and challenging situations. Always be positive and believe in yourself and your dream !  Here I strongly believe that if one person comes ahead with strong leadership, she or he can inspire others to get their active involvement in work towards ensuring basic education among vulnerable girls and women. Five years ago, I was alone, but now people from around the world are coming together to support me to continue my slum girls education.
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