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Broadening Horizons

How two women and their ventures are changing the way education is approached in India and the world

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CHANGING LIVES: (Left) Kiran Bir Sethi and Nidhi Tiwari

According to a recent report based on Linkedin data, the gap between men and women leadership is narrowing in the education and non-profit sector. Globally, these sectors are quickly minimising gender gaps. The women here are hired for about 47 per cent of the leadership position for education.

Last decade saw a steep rise in the number of women leaders with reformed ideas of education. Education to them does not happen only inside the classroom. One such leader is Kiran Bir Sethi.

She launched a reforming concept of ‘Design for Change’ back in 2009 when design wa s just for fabrics and computers. She launched this national campaign involving 32,274 schools and thousands of children to participate in a one week project to change something in their life or in their community.

In 2010, this movement spread across 22 countries involving 250,000 children. Her recent project aProCh (A Protagonist in Every Child) aims to make a city ‘child-friendly’ by converting the busiest parts of cities into a huge children’s park. She laughs and says, “I am a fan of any kind of engagement with children, whether it’s at home or in any structure of a school or a bus or in a café, I am a fan of the idea of engaging with young minds.”

Emotional, passive, dependent, quiet, graceful, weak, nurturing, self-critical, soft and accepting: These are common words to describe a woman. Linking these words to socio-economic and cultural factors would answer why women opt for indoor teaching. Do they?

Another lady defying all above-mentioned women-stereotype words and norms is Nidhi Tiwari.

Although her revolutionary ideas and actions have only recently been acknowledged and appreciated by forums, the founder of Women Beyond Boundaries, started long back as an outdoor educator when not many knew what ‘outdoor education’ was. A mother of two sons, she led the 1st All Women Trans-continental road expedition from Delhi to London.

Her recent Siberian expedition was a mark of flaring true sparks, as Nidhi says, ‘choosing to do out of the ordinary’ among students. “The idea was to introduce the world to the students and choosing to do things out of the ordinary. Before I started, I engaged with students of 15 schools across India and introduced the area of my expedition. This voluntarily made them study the geography. These students raised questions over a technology platform. During my journey I answered these questions on a daily basis and also skyped with them,” says Nidhi.

District Information System for Education data proudly talks about the percentage increase of female teachers in schools from 40.33 per cent in 2005-06 to 46.37 per cent in 2012-13. All India Survey of Higher Education data mentions about 39 per cent of female teachers out of 15,18,813 total number of teachers. With all due respect to these data points, visibility of women-led education system at the grassroots level still remains a bone of contention. Let alone the marvellous work being done by these revolutionary ladies.