At University of California Berkeley - as finalist and later adjudged Grand Prize Winner of the Tell Her Story Award

Deepa Pawar
Posted September 13, 2018 from India
Tell Her Story finalists at UC Berkeley
Deepa (fourth from left) with the other finalists and Tell Her Story team
Artistic representation of finalists
Artistic representation of finalists: Deepa represented by the San Fransisco Artist Noopur Goel (1/7)

I was never a part of the social change sector for only my individual development. The community that I belong to, called Gadiya Lohar, is a nomadic tribe of India. Women and girls here have a precarious existence. Food, education and health - are all scarce, in fact this tribe is still searching for its basic identity and dignity in the caste divided society of India. This situation, struggles and the community that I have seen since childhood are the prime inspiration and energy behind my work and activism. Leadership, such as mine, that emerge from deprived communities need to take responsibility for the development of such vulnerable communities. This is etched clearly in my heart and mind and all of my work reflects this. I believe that change should be led by those who are facing the problem - therefore, developing youth leaders from marginalised groups is my prime focus.

Few months ago, we came to know of this contest Tell Her Story on Facebook by the University of California, Berkeley to recognize remarkable women in South Asia. We submitted a photo story about my and my organisation Anubhuti's work in the area of sexual literacy and body literacy. My work of over 18 years in the grassroot, from a feminist, rights-based perspective was showcased on the Tell Her Story facebook page and received lot of appreciation and support from my community, co-activists, people who had seen my work, the youth and women I work with and so on. Our work in Anubhuti, as a team of young women working against entrenched patriarchal norms on the ground despite personal and socio-political risks was seen by a lot of people, and more importantly, appreciated. The story emerged as one of the top 25, and is now one of the top 3 finalists from entire South Asia.

I am currently at the University of California, having been invited as one of the top 3 finalists for panel discussions, networking meetings,  presentations and the award ceremony - Tell Her Story Gala. This is a historic and extremely important opportunity for me in many ways -

Firstly, I am the first woman from my entire Gadiya Lohar community in India to travel outside the country. My responsibility increases tenfold to represent the situation and needs of my community and towards effecting change especially for the girls and women of my tribe.

Secondly, I am the founder and director of the young women-led Anubhuti. This is a two year-old orgnaisation working in Mumbai and Thane districts of Mahrashtra in India. Our work involves training, mentoring youth in rural and urban communities and thus developing youth leaders from the grassroot to start working for socio-political change towards equity and justice. Along with these youth leaders, the organisation works in collaboration with municipal corporations and is advocating with local and state government for various rights of women such as right to accessible and dignified sanitation, right to equal sexual & reproductive health, right against workplace sexual harassment, right to public safety and so on. We are also working with various stakeholders such as police, health system, education system and so on to make them sensitive to gender, caste and other issues and thus uphold rights of the most vulnerable.

Thirdly, being a young woman leader belonging to a marginalised caste, working in the grassroot with a strong feminist perspective, activists like me face lot of economic, social and political risks.

A platform like this gives international recognition and validation to the kind of work we do. It shows there is support of the international community for this kind of work. This platform increases my own and my organisation's responsibility and resolve towards our objectives of grassroot youth-led social change based on values of justice, rights, equity and democracy. It gives me the opportunity to present such a process of change and to mobilize networks and resources for the same.

At this event, I have had the chance to meet professors and students of the University of California, Harvard as well as individuals from Facebook, Zareen's and so on - who understand and support the process of social change. I am truly glad to have met these like-minded people from varied fields and different parts of the world. We sincerely appreciate the Tell Her Story team, Facebook, Zareen's and University of California for bringing together grassroot young women leaders and for supporting our work.

Added after September 16, 2018 when the final ceremony took place:

I am humbled that my work is judged today as winner of the Grand Prize. I only want to say that all the applications that came in from entire South Asia are leaders in their own context and just as worthy. The Grand Prize is extremely important for me as the first woman from my community to have ever been honored thus, and wish to thank on behalf of entire Gadiya Lohar tribe. But more than that, it has been inspiring to network with the amazing women I met here from across borders - another finalist Naween Mangi from Pakistan and I have made plans to travel to each other's work areas and contribute.. this has not been an event but a process that shall continue..

 

Comments 8

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Jill Langhus
Sep 13, 2018
Sep 13, 2018

Hi Deepa,

Thanks for sharing more of your work and a big "Congrats!" on being a finalist for this prestigious award. It sounds like it's well deserved, too!

Perhaps you can collaborate with Safecity to ensure that your area is safer and that you and everyone is safe there?! More about this organization/contact here: https://www.worldpulse.com/en/community/users/safecity

Also, you may want to consider writing a story (and filling out the corresponding survey about security) about what peace and security mean to you for the current, World Pulse story awards, "The Future of Security Is Women?" https://www.worldpulse.com/en/voices-rising/story-awards/88510

Hope you have a great day!

Deepa Pawar
Sep 27, 2018
Sep 27, 2018

Thank you so much, will surely submit a story and ask others too

Jill Langhus
Sep 27, 2018
Sep 27, 2018

Hi Deepa,

You're welcome:-) Great! Looking forward to seeing it:-)

SHILPA KASHELKAR
Sep 13, 2018
Sep 13, 2018

Dear Deepa
Congrats and thanks for sharing your struggle. You are role model for many youths. I am proud and happy to be connected with you through CIP. Best wishes to you, your team and your work.

Deepa Pawar
Sep 27, 2018
Sep 27, 2018

Thank you so much, I'm so glad to connect with you too through CIP we can bring change together

Dawn Arteaga
Oct 03, 2018
Oct 03, 2018

Wow Deepa you won the grand prize! Congratulations! I'm curious what was it like when you returned home? How were you received home? Has it been an adjustment after the whirlwind of your experience abroad? Sending big hugs - what an incredible honor for a very deserving leader!

Kathy Dixon Crowley
Oct 09, 2018
Oct 09, 2018

Congratulations! It was so great to see you in San Francisco. Keep sharing your story. It is a light to all.

Beth Lacey
Mar 18
Mar 18

Amazing! Much congratulations!

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