“Mother Teresa” of the 21st century, that’s what, seems apt for this young lass Sonal, who beholds a much-lovable heart for the kids in her NGO ‘Protsahan’. Protsahan was incepted by Sonal in the year 2010 and the social enterprise uses creative education and art innovation to empower street children & young adolescent girls.

She was one among the enthusiastic youth professional, much derived to make a mark and have a fruitful career, after completing her master’s degree. Little did she know that her destiny had something great in stored for her, the compassionate heart had yet to start her real philanthropic journey. Her life changed when she encountered the misfortune of a mother/daughter residing in a slum area, she stopped & decided to empower their being and giving meaning to such lives. That’s how Protsahan was conceptualized and brought to life.

Tell us the story behind your unique venture ‘Protsahan’?

I reside in Delhi and one day for one of my assignments while shooting a corporate film,  I came across a woman in a slum, way back in 2010. She had six kids and used to send her eldest girl, hardly 9 to a red light area. My heart ached at the simple fact that one’s own mother can willingly send her child to brothel to earn a living for the family. Simply said, her extreme poverty demanded that she sacrifice one child, in order to pay for food for five others.  She was also pregnant with her seventh child. When I asked her, what about it, she said , as a matter of fact, ‘If it is a girl again this time, I will strangle her the minute she is born.’ Within 15 minutes, I had decided, I would start a creative arts school for the sexually abused girls in the area. Only later, I came to know, young girls as old as 5 or 6 years from nearby slums, were sexually abused by their own fathers.

Without any real know-how on how non-profit organizations start but equipped with a basic understanding of that there was no going back from here, I took the help of locals and carried a feasibility study. Within three weeks started the creative arts school that I had envisioned to start up. Thus, Protsahan was born as a one-room creative arts center for educating the girl child in the ghettos, exactly the same place where a girl’s integrity was getting ridiculed in a trafficking market; Project Educare at Protsahan as we call it today.

Something about your other projects Project Artisans’ Honor and Project Stree.

Project Artisans’ Honor and Project Stree were started to make the organization largely self-sustainable, we started involving the mothers of the children into creating micro-entrepreneurial ventures by training them on designing fabric crafts with some basic design approaches from creating embroidered kurtas to jewelry to even making sanitary napkins, a concept that was ‘new’ for most. It fortunately kicked off well and worked wonders. Not only did it get us funds to run our class, it solved the issue of ‘opportunity cost’ for mothers not being sacrificed by sending their girls to school, because now their mothers found jobs. They were getting introduced to the concept of gender rights, health and dignity. Design thinking at the level of urban slums was getting redefined by Protsahan.

What teaching methods are used at Protsahan and how are they different from the regular teaching practices used everywhere?

At Protsahan, we use simple techniques, but in a different way. We use scrabble to teach them English, cartoons and photographs to keep the interests alive, game and art based education, digital storytelling to engage them & make teaching a fun process. Our main aim is to encourage creative education and skills development through creative design thinking approaches. That holds the foundation for using the teaching pedagogy using Art and Technology. We are compiling all our approaches and releasing it under open source soon. Protsahan has always believed in innovative and unconventional way of doing things.

Tell us something about the Protsahan Team.

We are a creative & vibrant youth organization. Our team comprises of the best brains from across India; ranging from students from IITs, IIMs to youth from well-known companies in Singapore and Australia, and those in the creative industry. We believe that working with one child, and transforming her in entirety, has to be right. This approach is all-inclusive and can help you reach numbers in the right way.

Till now, how may girl children have been rescued and trained by Protsahan?

As of now, Protsahan has rescued about 800 girls directly, since 2010, and working with about 100 on everyday basis. And through other life skills projects and partnerships touched lives of over 10,000 girls pan India.

Has Protsahan been recognized by global organizations promoting women empowerment?

The World Bank, United Nations, Confederation of Indian Industries, Australia India Youth Dialog,Vital Voices, Global Voices, FICCI,  and other organizations of national and international repute are recognizing us. Yet, the journey has only begun.

How does your organization aim to elevate the lives of such girl children?

Through art, photography, digital stories, and design Protsahan teaches the girls a curriculum that will allow them to eventually matriculate into a government school. Most of the girls in Delhi’s slums do not go to school. Rather they help their family (who are often migrant workers) scratch out a living on the streets whether it’s selling vegetables with their parents or in a worst case scenario, working in a brothel. We teach them about reproductive health and teach them the difference between good touching and bad touching. We help the girls make their own menstrual pads when otherwise they would use a banana leaf, sand, and a rag that often causes vaginal infections.

Piece of advice for the aspiring youth…

Believe in yourself and what you want to achieve!  Just envision and make a start; slowly things will fall in place and your goals will be accomplished. Never believe in B-plans or Plan B’s for that matter, before your own gut first.