Women and girls driving change

Road trip. That’s what did last summer. We decided we needed to meet and see every one of the young entrepreneurs we’ve supported. We knew they were role models for kids, we just now, needed to know how.

Ruchi and Nitin set out on a 40 day trip.

One day, they went to Yavatmal and discovered something that everything was a little bit upside down (in a good way). There seemed to be women driving everywhere.

Kalpana, drives a red tractor, while just around the corner, Savita drives a school bus to take girls to school.

Why? Because men didn’t get around to doing it. Kalpana realized her farmer friends were in trouble because there was only one tractor. During harvest season, this meant crops could not be harvested fast enough to make it to market. So Kalpana decided she’d learn how to drive a tractor. She made a plan for getting a tractor. And now she’s helping all the farmers where she lives.

Meanwhile, Savita was looking after her children, her brothers children, and she was worried about the girls. They all went to school 5 km away but the bus service was erratic, sometimes when it was overloaded the bus would leave kids to walk home alone, through the forest. Savita would not put up with it. She too learned how to drive. She made a plan for a school bus service. And today she takes 12 girls to school, back and forth, two school trips a day. 


We were so excited by meeting two new women drivers that we thought about it a little more deeply.

Why do hundreds of thousands of girls bicycle to school and then once they finish school, they stop cycling?


“Women can do anything and everything. Of course, they can drive vehicles too. The men would generally not let the women take up the responsibilities that men had because they are scared that they will lose out on their worth. Men have their ego to maintain their powers over social systems.” Sriram, who drives a school bus in Maharashtra.

Kalpana’s Tractor

Before, farmers were tilling their fields manually, spending four days for work that can now be finished in one hour. Kalpana’s services are on time, cheaper than the competitor’s from the other village and have a special offer of allowing paying in installments. The farmers are happy with her services. And the women think that Kalpana is a superwoman, “I had thought that she would not be able to drive the tractor. It is such a big vehicle and how can a woman drive wearing a saree. I am amazed that she did it”, Renukabai observed, she’s Kalpana’s neighbour.


Savita’s School Bus

Savita, the sole earning member in her family works hard to sustain a family of eight – and those eight are her mother-in-law and seven children! Savita is not new to stirring things up, she’s well known for working for the empowerment of women, before we met her, she’s already organised a group rally to shut down the wine shop and worked with the women to save money in a self help group. She wanted to do something which would help everyone and most importantly girls. Everyone was taking the bus from her village in the forest to reach to the school five kilometers away. Children would walk one kilometer to the bus stop and then wait or miss the bus which was never on time. Parents would not allow the girls to go to school because it was not safe.


Now 12 girls from her village go to school in Bittergaon and dream of going to college too. “I am so satisfied now, my daughter is with Savita and I know she is safe”, says Kavita Bhimte whose daughter travels in Savita’s school bus.

Women drivers can change the world

We know Kalpana’s and Savita’s story will inspire more girls and women to take the challenge and start driving their own vehicles to bridge the gap of accessibility for women. This is a key indicator for the changing values in our society by learning the skills of taking initiative and breaking the rules.

Here’s the preview of their graphic novel going to print, to be released in our 2015 Design-thinking skills@school program.

Sneak peek to the graphic novel

Sneak peek to the graphic novel

Chapters from the graphic novel

To get married or become an entrepreneur

“I am determined to the make the world safe for women and girls, that’s what drives me – we can’t live in a world that’s not safe for girls, we just can’t.” Alisha, age 15

Patna, 8:07 a.m.
Alisha’s fatherpulls on his uniform looking for his rickshaw keys. His is momentarily stalled by a pair of soft palms clasping his worn hands to request, insist, “Hurry, we’ll be late Papa, I have to interview an entrepreneur to make a newspaper at school.”
Mr. Khan smiles. Alisha is excited to go to school on Saturday. He’s given up his morning auto-run to take her to meet Ochu, a sweetshop owner. Alisha wants to interview him, and he didn’t want to her to go alone. He’ll lose RS 1,500 today by not working. That worries him. It will cut into his savings. He’s been saving for two yearssince the day Alisha turned 13. There will be a wedding reception. He will apply for a personal loan this afternoon, after dropping Alisha to school. He’ll mortgage his rickshaw, hundreds of people will have a feast, Alisha a new sari, her groom, surrounded by laughing friends and family, and he, a proud father watching.
Alishawill have to stop school of course. He can’t afford to send her next year. Higher secondary school is intermediate college – the fees are higher, the prices of books increasing – her uniform is too small, her shoes too – she wants to pay for extra classes to be able to study for the civil services exam. Mr. Khan frowns thinkingabout her plans. She’s always wanted to become a police officer. Mr. Khan and his wife were shocked when she told them this: a young woman policeofficer, who had ever seen that? There’s no way he would allow Alisha to wear those clothes and risk her life like that. But Alisha’s was determined – she told him that she wanted to show the world that girls could become anything they wanted, especially a police officer who would ensure that other girls like her were safe. Mr. Khan loved his daughter, but what could he do. She had turned 15 last year, and people had already begun to talk at her father’s inability to find her a suitable groom.
“I am ready and you are not,” she breaks into his thoughts, hurrying down the stairs he climbs into his rickshaw. Alisha sits in the back, wearing her her school uniform, bag on her lap, a press card with her name pinned to her dupatta, and a smile. Her in-laws probablywon’t let her go back to school. He drives to Ochu’s sweet shop.
Alisha is tapping her foot, the only sign of her ebbing patience. She and her father had been waiting for over an hour at their table at Sadhu Hotel. Ochu, the sweet shop owner was giving them odd shoulder raising motions. The girl had initially annoyed him with her questions, driving away customers, but now he was curious – why was she here? She had said that he was a good entrepreneur to interview and that she wanted to interview him for her newspaper. He wondered who an entrepreneur was and why he was a good one as he weighed out half a kilo of his famous kala jamun to the customer before him.
It was afternoonby the time Ochu had made a receipt for his last customer, swatted the flies away from his halwa and jalebis, wiped his counter clean and made his way to the waiting girl and her father.
“An entrepreneur is a problem solver” Alisha explains, “You are the best of all entrepreneurs because you are solving a problem with a business.” Ochu’s face asks, what problem am I solving? “You provide food at very reasonable prices to hungry people don’t you?” Alisha answers at speed. “Students like me come to you, the rickshaw puller comes to you, my father comes to you when we have guests at home, and I’ve even seen the headmaster stop by for your samosa after school. So, you see you’re solving one problem already. Of hunger. Then, you pay Dinesh-bhai to sweep the floors and clean the utensils, you pay Ila-didi to help you make the samosas in the morning and you pay Geeta and Zulfi to hand out plates of food to your customers. You’ve built a team and you’re employing three women! You started a business that solves problems – that makes you an entrepreneur- a problem solving hero.”
As he watched Alisha skip away, her arm locked in her father’s, Ochu’s face was glowing.She called him a hero.
Mr. Khan had sat quietly and watched his daughter all morning. His earlier worries about not making enough money today or reaching the bank on time disappeared. He had watchedAlisha’s intelligent questions, the kindness with she explained her project to the irritated shop owner, and finally how her words and actions had changed Ochu from a grumpy man to melting sweetie.He started to see her in a khaki uniform, doing her best to make her country a safer and better place, rather than silent in a marriage hall.
Alisha chatted at speed as she clung on to his arm and they walked her to school. As they approached the school gate, she stopped and looked up to him, “Papa you now how I knew who was an entrepreneur? I thought of everything you do and told him.”
Ten minutes later Mr. Khan walked into the bank. The loan officer was just about to clear his desk. Mr. Khan placed all his documents on the table, and then said, “I need to mortgage my rickshaw for my daughter’s education loan.”

The risk of being 13

Bhojpur. 6.14 a.m.
“When you are born and survive as a girl, you have already taken a risk. I take risks every day by not thinking about the future, by thinking I will come back to school tomorrow to read stories with my friends, I take risks because I know anyone at anytime could stop me.” Anshu, age 13

Bhojpur is waking up to tinkling cow bells and a sleepy farmer is walking towards his cattle. His unhurried footsteps are no match for the pair of flip-flops that fly past him, school bag spilling open, papers fluttering and a white dupatta struggling to escape – waving in the wake of a running girl.
6.15 a.m. Anshu is late for her coaching class. She knows her teacher must have already begun talking about the rise of the grand Mughal empire and she doesn’t want to miss it. Once, with her family, she had travelled to Delhi where she saw fort ruins, they were giant. The largest and oldest thing she had seen until then was the 200 year-old banyan tree that stood behind her school. Her mind is wandering again, slowing her down she scolds herself. She has to focus on running. But harvest season has begun so she has to help around her house. Help her mother and her aunts bring in the grain, help her brothers pack it into big sacks and store it around the house. She has been asked to stay back from school and help – not just today, but many days.
Anshu’s father lives in Jaipur and so she’s been left in charge of being responsible and taking action- addingweight and force to her thirteen years. Several years ago, when her family had decided to move from Madhya Pradesh to Bihar, Anshu had been separated from her family at the Patna railway station. In the whirl of sounds, smells, people, and suitcases, she remembers being afraid realizing what loss was. However, with measured footsteps she had found her way to the railway officer’s chambers and waited patiently until her father came to get her. Once she realized that she could take care of herself she realized she did not need to be afraid. Thoughts are distracting her, she knows her classmates will have moved on to Humayun after learning about Babur. Her teacher understand that girls are expected to miss school and help at home, that’s why they were usually late for class or did not turn up at all. But Anshu thinks maybe he does not understand that some girls really do want to come to school to learn new things. If girls can’t tell their parents they want to go to school – perhaps teachers could try? Parents might listen to them.

She nods to Doctor Uncle who is swiftly walking in the opposite direction. He must be late too. He usually opens his door to patients at 6 a.m. every morning. Harvest season is slowing everyone down. There are five doctors in the village now. Two years ago there were none and everyone had to take a bullock cart and two buses to reach the nearest hospital. Anshu still wants to become a doctor. She always feels needed when she is able to help relieve other people’s fears and worries. For reasons she does not understand, she wants to treat bones. Bones that break so easily while you run and bones that are the building block of everything we do. She wonders if doctors who treat bones could also be interested in the Mughal Empire. Maybe she can study about the bones of the emperors – there are actually people who do that. Archaeologists they are called. But they cannot cure people.
Anshu has been reading stories about people who do unbelievable things – like a man who builds bridges in South India, a woman who makes solar lamps, and a boy who opened a tribal medicine centre. She reads these stories on Saturdays when she goes to school for skill story school. This is the only day of school she really likes, her teacher says he likes it too. Saturday is three days away.
Anshu runs the last ten steps to her coaching class catching her flying dupatta. As much as she wants to see the world, she loves her village and her people. She will go to Patna and maybe even Delhi to study, but she will come back to home. There are five doctors here already, but she could be the next one – she’ll be theonly doctor who will build a hospital and will treat bones and tell stories of Mughal emperors. But her big dream depends on tomorrow. If her family will let her go back to school. Her dream for every tomorrow to go to school school is the risk she takes every day.

Skills4Girls at school

2,137 teenage girls in Grade 9 secondary schools in Bihar told us they go to school so one day they can get a job. By 2030, there will be > 423 million people in India in search of work. Skills4Girls is teaching market relevant skills to girls while they are still at school, so that tomorrow they can create a job for themselves as well as everyone around them. Designing skills for heroes.
Click to vote for us projinspire.com/vote/ to pitch Skills4Girls @ Project Inspire Grand finals on August 30, 2014. The countdown begins.

All that was new in this year’s first workshop in Ranchi

The first workshop of the year began in Ranchi, Jharkhand where 36 wonderful teachers came from far and near villages to read new stories and play cool new games that teach skills at school.
We had 23 teachers who attended the workshop for the first time and had not attended the previous training in November 2013. Other than the teachers from the Ursuline Provinciate, we also had three Jesuits representatives from two provinces as our participants at the two day workshop.

Our hero teachers from the Congregation of the Ursulines

This was our second workshop with the teachers and we were very excited to know how many stories have they read till now, how much did the kids participate in the skills games and the skills challenges. There were a lot of new things in store for the teachers and in their cool red teacher folder too! Real-life entrepreneur DVD’s, photostories made on children in Bihar, postcards, going to school diaries and our skills book catalogue.

The super teacher folder

Our team of six worked with enthusiasm on and off stage- playing the new board games, reading new stories through story panels and mini books, which the teachers loved! This was a new addition to our program where every child will have a mini book to read the story from and keep it with them.
The teachers loved the new games – The Cash flow game and the Marketing game. Both of them board them with all of fun & cool illustrations. The Cash flow game had sudden mishap and bonus cards while the marketing game had all the good, bad and ugly ways to market once could choose from. They then gave a super pitch to back up their marketing strategy too! The teachers gave us the most valuable feedback so that we can make them better before they reach the schools for the kids to play and learn skills through them.

The Cash flow game : Teachers reading the situation cards they picked

Teachers who had read stories and had children’s projects shared their experiences and details on how they think this program has impacted their students.

Mr. Aman, a teacher from Ursuline convent girl’s school, Lahardaga said, “I have seen the students creatively using their own skills to make the projects.”

Sister Pushpa said, “I have seen the change in my students after they have started reading these stories and doing the projects. Few days ago, we took them out on Women’s Day and they participated and spoke on a public platform willingly with confidence and determination. I never saw my students being so enthusiastic earlier.”

A lot of teachers who came in for the first time shared with us their concerns and their first reactions about the stories and games. We learnt a lot from them, noted every change we need to implement to make it better and impactful. To look forward for the teachers to read as many books they can with the children, until we meet them again in November with more new stories, fun games and exciting skills challenges.

Bob Slattery, representative of the Jesuit province, a new participant said, “I loved the Bijli story (Bijli brings the carnival to her village). It’s a wonderful story and the skill came out really well. Nice illustrations.”

The Power of Stories

Stories create experiences they open the door to the possibility of understanding a new way

When I was very small I used to listen to my grandmother’s stories with wonder. When she spoke, I saw what she meant – so now when I remember her stories, I have to check my memory to see if there was really a picture book, or just her words.  I used to imagine in black and white because all the old movies were mostly black and white.

In India, we’ve always listened to stories, it’s how we pass down what we know, how we share how we see the world, and now with the organization I work with, how we learn.

From the mythological narration of facts of life in Bhagwad Gita by Lord Krishna to Arjun, or my grandmother telling me stories, to the stories our children listen to and watch on TV, on iPads and in cinemas.

But it’s still the story that is ‘told’ that is ‘just words’ floating, with a voice, that allows us to imagine. Sometimes I think we learn much more when we are not given the images, but rather from words, we create our own.

So let’s say you are trying to teach children a new idea or concept, what works best the storytelling format or the story-reading approach?

I did some research. Global research says that storytelling is an abstract form of presenting information which induces creativity of thought while a story with painted, drawn pictures and characters painted provides a concrete understanding of how the characters and their cultures interact.

Story telling is like a magician holding the pulse of the audience with his magic tricks. The storyteller holds the stage and audience by the manipulated twists, turns, expressions and pauses in his stories. All of this combined with hand and body movements capture the attention of the listeners. The audience’s gaze is glued to storyteller yet they are transported to the other world that of story.

Therefore, we realize that telling a story in a specific way is crucial to the understanding of the story. While delivering beautifully designed story books to children to learn entrepreneurial skills, we now want to focus on strengthening of storytelling by teachers. In the workshop for orienting teachers to the program we shall innovate activities through which we facilitate our teachers to become storytellers and our children to learn skills through stories.

So what’s the power of a story?

It’s when everyone comes to school, even those who technically are not enrolled. Surendra Prasad is the headmaster of Nand High School in Sagouli (A semi urban town on the borders of East and West Champaran districts in Bihar). Every Saturday he reads one of our stories. And everyone comes. Every child who is supposed to be in school is there. Even kids who have dropped out come to listen. Women pause to listen while grazing their cattle in the fields and men who are doing new construction in the school come to sit in the classroom.

Surendra Prasad


“I’m sure it has an impact on all of them. They never get any books to read. Many of them cannot actually read. This is a way of getting to know about things which they never knew even existed. The stories are powerful and teach crucial skills for life,” he explained, pausing for a moment.

“On one Saturday, a man who has the contract for construction in our school, sat down to listen to the story I was telling. He listened to the entire story and later came to me. He said to me that the story was amazing and inspiring. We were reading the Bijli brings Carnival to her village that day. As we talked, I suggested to him that if he expands his social network and set up his offices in three different places, then he will be more accessible to people, also he can appoint local people to expand the size of their team. That day a 35 year old became my student”, says Surendra Prasad, and the builder did just that, and came back to thank Surendra for the insight into a skill through story.



Be! Schools

Our schools program – Be! Schools trains government school teachers to use 10-20 entrepreneurial design-driven skills stories to teach children studying in secondary grades (Grade 8th and Grade 9th), one skill is taught each week for a year in 1000+ Government Schools in Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal.

52.8% of children in India drop out by Grade 10, we are working in secondary grades to stem the dropout rate and make education relevant to employment by delivering skills through the school system at scale, skills that can help children get a job or create a job once they complete their education.

Project Associate, Ranchi

 As Project Associate, Ranchi, you would have to spend 60% of your time in Ranchi and 40% in Delhi. The position would require you to create and lead a monitoring and evaluation team and a research team to implement the Be! Schools programme with 200 government and congregation schools across Jhanrkhand and Chattisgarh, meet with government officials, create new stories, communicate with teachers and students, identify and understand their problems, and amend and develop the programme to solve their problems and incorporate their ideas and suggestions.

Key Responsibilities: 

  • Teacher training: You will be responsible for the overall implementation of the teacher training in Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal. You will be responsible to lead the team of teacher trainers – from where you are positioned, in Delhi/ Ranchi and travel to the training locations to ensure that the trainers understand how to deliver each story and teachers understand the skills activities.
  • You will be working closely with the state teams and they will be reporting to you formally every week about the program related activities- district wise school performance, DEO/DPO meetings, individual schools cases and in turn, we’d like your program status reports, every week about the progress, issues, changes that need to be made to the process.
  • Report Writing: Watch progress through the internal monitoring system and weekly, write/create INSIGHT reports that could be the base of a blog, report to funders and research work. What we know now? Insight, trends, key quotes from kids, teachers, case studies?
  • Testing new books, skills activities with children. Coordinate, meet and follow up with (email, phone calls, visits) with schools, NGOs for testing of Be! books with children in their schools in Delhi and work with the team to do this in states where the program is being implemented. Build relationships with schools for regular testing of the books with children. Submit reports on each testing session, showing what has to be changed in terms of content, text, words, design, length and the activity to make it useable for children.
  • Once the activities come from states, start grading the activities and based on the outcomes, start revising the content of the books and teacher manual, as well as the teacher training sessions. Based on the grading results write interesting stories for the qualitative research reports. This will take minimum 30% of your time.
  • Team management: You will be responsible to work with the team members in Bihar to implement the schools program in 1,000 schools and you will provide direct support to the state team members- Head of programs, project officers and regional program coordinators in Bihar.
  • Project support:  Participate with study team members in development of ongoing project reports and documentation of progress, including analysis of qualitative data, summarization of findings, and development of visuals to communicate findings to stakeholders.
  • Analyze the existing quantitative data to understand the correlation between the survey data and the skill projects submitted by children.

Desired Skills and Experience

  • Knowledge and experience of participating in a large scale project
  • Ability to manage people, communicate with different stakeholders and multi-task at a distance.
  • Ability to coordinate and manage all aspects of the project
  • Highly motivated and a self-starter with a solid level of commitment
  • Excellent organizational and management skills/ability to prioritize
  • Ability to contribute in a team environment and manage a team
  • Computer proficiency and proficiency in M.S. Office (Excel, Power Point and Word)
  • Knowledge of working on statistical software like SPSS and Stata
  • Must be passionate about the development sector and creating social change through entrepreneurship
  • Qualitative and quantitative research skills.
  • At least 2 years of work experience. However, we accept application from college freshers if they can prove to possess the above-mentioned qualities.

If you believe you have the qualifications and experience for and interest in this profile, please send a one page CV along with a one page cover note to Rithika Nair at rithika@goingtoschool.com by 28 February 2014.

Thank you

#goingtoschool; #Be! Schools; #jobs; #project associate; #NGO; #job application


Where Girls Are Not Wanted

This is Komal Kumari

Komal is 12 years old. She is in grade 8 at Government Girls High School, Machuatoli, Patna. Her mother is a housewife and her father is an autorikshaw driver. Komal has been reading Be! Stories avidly because all the stories she has read so far have been about girls. Her project for ‘Getting to the Bottom of It’, which teaches children to notice and understand problems around them, identified what she thought was the most compelling problem in her community – gender discrimination, sexual harassment and female foeticide. This from a 12 year old bespectacled girl.

Komal has never been in the way of harm, but every day she walks to school afraid of her dupatta being pulled from behind or a man stopping her on her way. But she has seen didis (older girls) who have been grabbed, teased, slapped and groped. Once, her older sister asked a boy who had been teasing her if he had no mother or sister at home, and pat came the reply, “Of course I do, but I can’t do this to them, and they are nothing to you so stop worrying about them!”

Komal’s aunt had been told to abort her baby when they found out that she was a girl, however her aunt was strong and went ahead and had her baby girl. However, her aunt’s friend was not that lucky. She had a girl and was forced to give her away her daughter because her family did not want the girl.

Her project showed a pregnant woman on a hospital bed with a nurse and a sonography machine beside her. Another part showed a hospital and child care centre with many people protesting outside holding boards and placards saying GIRLS ARE IMPORTANT and SAVE OUR DAUGHTERS! To change the way people see people girls is her dream.

Komal wants to become a teacher so that she can teach the new generation to be proud of girls, to tell them that boys and girls are equal, to tell them that there is nothing wrong about being born a girl, and that girls can do and become whatever they want.  She feels that society does not want girls, but how will society grow without girls. Women themselves don’t want girls. She does not understand the logic behind their thoughts.

“I want to do something to reform their thoughts, make them understand and love girls. Girls are so much prettier and nicer than boys, right? Girls always take more care of their parents than boys, right? Without girls, there will be no future, right? Then why do people not want girls?” 

She identified a problem, girls were not wanted


Going to School at the Bihar Book Fair 2014

Books! Books! Books! In frosty January, Rastriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) Bihar is running book fairs in 38 districts across Bihar in school grounds. Every school has a small fund to spend on books and the book fairs help teachers and children to choose the books they want to read.

Young entrepreneurs at work

The Going to School team in Bihar thought it would be right to show all of our books from the past 10 years, so Going to School in India, Girl Stars and Be! Books were shown to children in nine districts. We decided to not just show the books but to make it interactive, so children were given chart papers to complete their entrepreneurial skills projects. Some children sat on the mats reading books in the cold for three hours because they liked the stories so much. Every child that completed a project won a hero badge. Exceptional kids and projects took home skills backpacks.Bundled up to keep warm from the cold, Sachin, Asif, Paras, Abhishek, Manoj Kumar,Pandey,Jeetendar,Ranjeet and all our districts coordinators have been having fun ensuring children read stories in Bihar.