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  Social Responsibility

Women Empowerment
Published on: July 5, 2020, 4:46 p.m.
Bobst India lends Aatmaja Foundation a helping hand
  • A thumbs up to girls' education

By Sekhar Seshan. Consulting Editor, Business India

Sakshi wants to study commerce and become a chartered accountant because she says, it pays well, and fulfil her mother’s dreams and aspirations. She lost her father, and her mother learnt driving to provide for herself and Sakshi. Lacking skills that would have got her into the workforce, the brave woman understands the value of education and is determined to give her daughter that opportunity.

Her schoolmate Priyanka, who lost both her parents before she entered high school, is still figuring out what she wants to be. Engineering and medicine attract her, while she is also very skilled in sports and part of the school’s badminton and basketball teams.

The Pune-based Aatmaja Foundation, started by former Infosys official Priti Rao, has taken both these girls, as well as 128 others from similar disadvantaged backgrounds, under its wing. Pumpkin Patch Daycare, of which Rao is managing director, aims to empower these bright young sparks and help them grow into confident professionals with strong values.

Swiss carton machinery giant Bobst is lending Aatmaja a helping hand. Says Bobst India president and local entity head Upendra Deglurkar: “We are sponsoring 12 to 14 of the girls, for their education from Standards VIII to XI, when they are ready to enter a career course.” The company gets experts to interview girls in rural areas around Pune, select some and take their parents’ or guardians’ consent to put them into the Foundation’s school. Educating, clothing and feeding each of these girls for three years costs about Rs3 lakh.

Providing needy rural children with education has always been a passion for Deglurkar, who is also a director on a rural school near Nanded in Maharashtra. “But this is not our expertise, so we carefully selected an organisation which works in rural Pune,” he explains. The five-year-old Aatmaja Foundation starting by supporting just 20 girls – a number which has grown more than six-fold. This support includes financial aid by reimbursing fees, costs for books, notebooks, additional coaching, career and personal counselling, and help in online admissions.

Aatmaja, which translates to ‘daughter of the soul’, also arranges workshops to help the girls develop creativity, leadership skills, safety, health and hygiene. “In the coming years we hope to make a significant impact to lives of over a thousand girls,” says Rao.

Besides girls’ education, Bobst India’s CSR policy focuses on their health, too: it ran a scheme to build washrooms for them in about 50 schools in the state. These were selected on the basis of its employees’ recommendations, in the places from where they themselves come. “This gives them pride - and also taken care of our challenge of maintenance,” Deglurkar explains. “We have built about 50 such toilets so far, and the number is growing.”

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