Published: 01st September 2020
This 17-year-old from New Delhi is using her Computer Science skills to help women in Maharashtra and the Northeast
Through Vigyanit Foundation, Anushree Aggarwal helps SHGs and their children by mentoiring and skilling them while putting her Computer Science skills to good use. Read her inspiring story here
What did you want to be when you were growing up? I wanted to be an astronaut and look at how far I have come (full points for self-deprecation!). Then, I came across Anushree Aggarwal, who, at the age of 17, is convinced that she wants to be a Computer Scientist and she has already come a long way. This is the story of how this New Delhi girl came to realise how computers may not be the answer to saving Earth but can surely enable someone to lead a better life on this planet.
The incident that changed it all
The more Anushree's obsession (really there is no other term for it) for Computer Science grew from strength to strength, the more she realised the gender parity in the field. But this student of St Thomas' Girls Senior Secondary School soon realised that it is not usually the preferred career path for girls. "The thought of gender parity weighed heavily on my mind. I had heard that one-third of the seats in panchayats and all urban local bodies were reserved for women. So, to put it to the test, I set out on a journey to discover how I can help," explains Anushree. And what was she hoping to come across? Honestly, even she did not know. "But all I had was my passion for Computer Science and I knew that it could not fix any rural situation," she shares.
Anushree Aggarwal | (Pic: Vigyanit Foundation)
But still, Anushree knew that she wanted to bring about a change, no matter how small. Through some research, she found out that Krishi Vikas Audyogik Saha Sanstha and Green Agro Multipurpose Foundation were already working in the realm in which she wanted to make a difference. She worked with them for three months to prove her capability and launched Vigyanit Foundation in 2016 in collaboration with them. Let us pause here to let you in on something. The word 'Vigyanit' was coined by the 17-year-old herself. 'Vigyan' as in Science, 'Ganith' as in Math, 'it' as in Information Technology and 'gyan' as in knowledge. What it stands for is disseminating knowledge of Science and Math through technology. Impressive, right?
Offering her help
Anyone who knows what Self Help Groups (SHGs) do knows the importance of them in making women financially independent. So for all those women who are skilled at either handicrafts, textile, artifacts and so on, Anushree designed an app that could help them find the right SHGs by selecting their skill and geographical location. On-ground volunteers of the organisations she has partnered with help the women with this. They are added to group chats and have access to a common page that displays all kinds of relevant information, including government schemes applicable to them.
Wondering where Computer Science comes into play? "There are a 100 things one needs to coordinate when one is an entrepreneur. I help them become digitally adept, from learning Microsoft Excel to sending emails, so that their work is organised and their productivity only increases," explains Anushree. What she does is teach new tools to a few head coordinators once a week and they relay the information to the others. In Maharashtra, 19-year-old Kalyani, who Anushree shares a great camaraderie with, is helping her with this. This way, she has impacted over 350 SHGs in Maharashtra and with the help of Innovative Attribute Society, she has helped another 50 SHGs in Manipur and Nagaland as well. Through Vigyanit Foundation's mentorship model, Anushree has helped over 6,300 families raise their income by 25 per cent.
Vigyanit poster | (Pic: Vigyanit Foundation)
CS is here
Yet, this still wasn't core Computer Science, which Anushree was itching to put to good use. Hence, she started the #SheSharp Fellowship in December 2018. Despite the name, it is open to both girls and boys. The children of the women in the various SHGs are encouraged to enrol in this. And via Skype, Anushree delivers various workshops on HTML and other programming languages too. One session goes on for about two hours each and she has taken six batches of fellowships till date.
Today, though she still has the will to do much more, Anushree is happy because she knows that she is indeed putting her Computer Science skills to good use.
For more on her, check out vigyanitfoundation.org