Published: 01st September 2021
This 20-year-old Odia girl's idea to turn plans into action is a winner for sure. Check it out
Shonal Rath's Demystified Initiative hopes to leverage the power of experts and experience to ensure that solutions that are derived are both innovative and effective
Ideas are nothing without strategy and Shonal Rath is painfully aware of this. Working as a Development Associate with the Outcast Activist Forum (OAF), Uganda, made the 20-year-old even more sensitive to this. "We all have passion but innovative ideas that, for example, help grassroots organisations allocate their funds in a way that ensures maximum benefit are the need of the hour," shares the Economics (Hons) student from University of Delhi. This is why she started the Demystified Initiative, to harness the experience and resources of experts and corporates and combine them with the passion of youngsters like herself to mitigate the numerous problems plaguing society that have only further been exacerbated by the pandemic. The areas that have the Odia girl's heart are gender poverty gap, green recovery, mental health, skill-building, diversity and inclusion. It seems like a heavy list but the student is determined to do her bit for the causes.
So first up, the Leadership Summit she's organising. Already ready to be set in motion virtually on September 3, this is a series of weekly sessions with experts, corporate leaders, successful entrepreneurs and dedicated non-profits who expose listeners to the ground realities, what type of innovation is needed in which area and what applies to developing countries like India. Nirbhay Lumde, Director - Corporate Social Responsibility, Asia Pacific SBU, CGI, and Madhura DasGupta Sinha, Founder and CEO, Aspire for Her Foundation, are their first guests. While Lumde, who is an SDG enthusiast, will speak about green recovery, social entrepreneurship, climate change and beyond, Sinha will shed light on gender poverty gap issues and women empowerment. "These sessions will go on virtually for the whole of this month and part of the next. We intend to conduct these sessions in rural areas too," says Shonal, who released a series of two books titled Project Development Demystified this July. "It is these conversations that will help us arrive at effective and innovative solutions that will further our cause. COVID has called for some intense rebuilding of policy and planning and we hope that these talks will help us and others to do the same," says the youngster who traces her roots back to Puri and Marshaghai.
In June-July 2021, Shonal was a research intern with National Commission for Scheduled Castes, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India, and took up research on manual scavengers
The next step in their plan of action is to organise collaborative bootcamp sessions. Talks with MNCs are already on and Shonal is hopeful that this plan will firm up very soon. "Employability is a major factor and instead of technology acting as a divider, we want it to be an equaliser. These bootcamps will particularly be directed towards college students in the rural areas so that they can upskill themselves," she shares.
The big moment
Shonal has been working with non-profits for a long time now and that's how she developed the will to serve communities who are vulnerable. The final-year student recently conducted a telemedicine and healthcare-based research with Smile Foundation to understand how effective telemedicine has truly been at the ground level. And in some personal news, just last month in lieu of her contribution to various European journals with regards to topics like development and strategy, she was announced as a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society for Great Britain and Ireland. She believes that these are baby steps in her larger journey to herald a bigger change.
Check her work out on Instagram @i_demistify