Aarti Naik: Slum Girl Whisperer
Flip to the word Changemaker in the dictionary and you’ll find a picture of Aarti Naik, 24, book in hand, surrounded by a group of slum girls from Mumbai, India. They consider the adventurous young woman who created the SAKHI for Girls Education initiative and developed community based girls education program, Girls Learning Center a teacher, mentor and advocate. That’s not surprising since SAKHI means female friend who supports, guides and inspires girls. Ashoka`s Youth Venture helped to initiate her social venture – SAKHI for Girls Education. In 2008, Aarti Naik, was a dropout with no one to guide her in the right direction. Instead of throwing herself a pity party, she thought about the little sisters in her community. They lacked basic literacy and math skills, would have limited career options (such as being a domestic or hotel laborer) and live in poverty. She wanted more for them. She needed them to have bright futures. Aarti Naik asked herself: Who will take care of my slum girls’ education? With much enthusiasm, she answered the call and used her own experiences to improve learning conditions for girls 6 to 14 years old. Today, she reaches 100 girls via the Girls Book Bank and the Girls Learning Center, which focuses on computer literacy, saving, reading, writing, public speaking and critical thinking. She hopes her success motivates others, but getting to this point wasn’t easy. Initially, she met resistance her family and local communities. Only six girls enrolled in her program, because most parents didn’t consider educating their daughters a priority. Still, Aarti Naik refused to be discouraged. The challenges made her stronger. Passionate about her work, Aarti Naik pushed forward and operated without financial support for two long years. Then she received funds from supporters like Life Unlimited to purchase books. She started the English Books Library to expose girls to English texts and began a Door to Door Library so each girl could a have book to read at home. In 2012, A Good Deed Tea provided funds to buy books in Hindi, Marathi and English. While Aarti Naik has been awarded for her efforts and is happy with her achievements, there is more work to be done. By 2018, she plans to reach 2000 girls in 100 Girls Learning Centers in India. Impressive? Indeed.