Published: 08th February 2021
IIT Madras' student campaign is helping school girls explore unconventional careers like astronomy. Here's how
She Can, a campaign by the students of IIT Madras, was launched on January 3. It has reached out to almost 450 women until now.
A group of students of IIT Madras have initiated a campaign called She Can that is helping school girls look at unconventional career options such as astronomy, hotel management, fashion designing and more — through a series of online sessions. Launched in January, this is part of IIT-M's long-running tech fest - Shaastra. Shvetha Sivaprasad, Student Strategist, Shaastra 2021 says that “the campaign is all about furthering the idea that women can achieve whatever they dream of .”
According to her, one of the distinct features of the campaign is that it is completely student-driven and students sign up to volunteer to guide school students. "The students understand their responsibility towards society and have a sense of gratitude for all the opportunities and support that it has given to them and hence, want to give back in a manner that stays with it for a long time. The students from the team of Shaastra 2021 have ideated and executed this entire campaign, right from coming up with the idea, securing collaborations and finally conducting the sessions," she said.
In addition, the campaign also works with college students and adult women giving them guidance and lessons on entrepreneurship and financial literacy respectively.
She Can is run in collaboration with various NGOs, schools and colleges around the country. The students work under the guidance of United Nations Academic Impact, as a project under the Millennium Fellowship. All sessions are held on online platforms such as Google Meet and Microsoft Teams, which are now commonplace owing to the pandemic. They've managed to impact as many as 450 women already, "The campaign started to take form in the months of July and August. We started contacting NGOs, schools, colleges and other stakeholders by mid-September, conducting sessions as and when it was possible for all those involved," she added.
To help school girls, they decided to help them the figure out the one thing that can change the course of their adult lives — their choice of career. Shvetha says “We are having sessions on career counselling for school going girls to make them aware of all the various opportunities available to them apart from the conventional fields so that they can choose a path that they're passionate about”. This includes sessions on everything that's beyond the mainstream, "We explore a plethora of other career options apart from the conventional ones like Engineering or Medicine. The students were informed about broad fields such as fashion designing, hotel management, hospitality, sports and Civil Services while questions pertaining to more specific occupations and goals like how to help the environment, pursue a career in astronomy or the scope of Microbiology were also tackled," explained Shvetha.
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Meanwhile, college-going girls are motivated to become entrepreneurs — at a time when the start-up exosystem, in India, is well and truly buzzing. As Shvetha elucidates, “We have had Entrepreneurial talks to give them an idea of what challenges they might face in setting up their business and how to overcome them”. This makes a lot of sense taking into account the fact that 75 per cent of India's youth want entrepreneurial courses to be included in the curriculum, according to the Amway India Entrepreneurship Report (AIER).
This campaign, however, isn’t time-bound and the team hopes that it will be self-sustaining. "Shaastra will hold the campaign for a couple of weeks after the fest terminates and continue to hold on to it if the campaign creates a good impact. If for some other reason it doesn’t happen, we hope to pass on the baton to an NGO, so that they can take it forward," says Shvetha.