Changemaker Priya Agrawal, founder of Antarang Foundation, India
“School dropouts have seriously increased during the pandemic. Safeguarding access to education for children and adolescents in these challenging times is the objective of Priya Agrawal’s “Antarang Foundation”. We are glad to support her work as part of our Covid-19 Aid program.”
Offering a transformative journey to the most vulnerable children
Despite an increase in school and college enrolment rates, the problem of youth unemployment and underemployment remains a serious issue in India. Growing numbers of young people do not have the aspirations or skills needed to pursue a viable livelihood. More than 40% of children drop out of school every year. Most of them work in low-paid, low-skilled jobs that may be part-time, temporary or seasonal, are frequently working under precarious conditions, and are constantly moving from one employer to another for the prospect of a few hundred rupees (100 rupees = 1.11 Euro) more.
The Antarang Foundation brings equity to careers and employability by building aspirations and offering a bridge from education to employment for adolescents and young adults primarily from marginalized communities. This non-profit organization takes at-risk children — school dropouts or potential dropouts from urban slum communities, juveniles, and those engaged in the informal, exploitative sector — through a transformative journey. It enables them to articulate their desired career paths, set aspirational goals and chart a realistic course of action so they can achieve them.
Enabling young people to align their realities and aspirations
Founder Priya Agrawal made a switch to the social sector in 2002 after an 11-year career in advertising and market research. Deeply vexed by the challenges facing people trying to break the cycle of poverty, she worked for several different NGOs before establishing the Antarang Foundation in 2013.
The Antarang Foundation repurposes ‘employability’ programs for these young adults from those that focus on the most easily available minimal requirement jobs to ones that can empower them with the social wherewithal and deliberate long-term planning to pursue a career of their choice. It enables the most vulnerable children to align their lived reality and their aspirations while building confidence at the same time.
The foundation has also built a strong community of professionals who come on board as mentors to guide the young participants until they successfully complete the first year of their final placements. This has helped ensure that the dropout rate of their graduates in the first year of placement hovers at only 20% versus the national average dropout rate of 80%. At the time of writing, the Antarang Foundation has supported 85,000 at-risk-youths.
Opening new job opportunities in the middle of a crisis
Between March and August of this year, the Antarang Foundation provided food rations and toiletries, and made cash transfers to over 8,500 families from Mumbai’s worst affected communities, in partnership with the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai. Since then, the immediate and most pressing need has been to get income to families. This is because young adults and families that had invested a significant portion of their earnings in education are fearful to take up emerging jobs in sanitization and e-commerce deliveries.
This year, the Antarang Foundation started placement services to help parents and family members align with emerging jobs that are in line with their aspirations in the post-pandemic world. The Foundation is now working closely with the government and other private partners to integrate employability and career counselling into the formal education curriculum. They recently launched the UNIVERSAL CAREER READINESS DIAGNOSTIC, which serves to address the questions, fears and anxieties that young adults face in these times of uncertainty. So far, more than 100 parents have been placed in jobs, more than 1,000 young adults have been enrolled and trained in employability projects, while more than 5,000 adolescents have been counselled on their post-10th grade transition and assisted with 11th grade admissions.
Priya Agrawal: “India is actually seeing a huge number of adolescents dropping out of education. Post COVID-19, this will be a big drain on our demographic dividend. With the support of Beiersdorf, we will provide career guidance to over 16,000 high schoolers from Mumbai’s government schools, encouraging them to stay on in education and help them to set aspirations and make informed transitions.”
Beiersdorf supports Ashoka to fight COVID-19 consequences
COVID-19 keeps hitting the whole world hard — and its ultimate socioeconomic consequences cannot be foreseen today. With this in mind, Beiersdorf launched its global “Care Beyond Skin” aid program with a volume of 50 million euros at the very beginning of the crisis. The program comprises two pillars: immediate aid, and long-term support to fight the pandemic’s consequences. Among the long-term initiatives, Beiersdorf has set up partnerships with international NGOs, Ashoka being one of them. With the Beiersdorf funding, the world’s largest network of social entrepreneurs is able to expand its “Changemakers United” initiative beyond Europe to Africa, Latin America and South Asia. The program promotes and supports social innovators whose ideas and ventures aim specifically at reducing the socio-economic consequences of COVID-19. Additional funding is provided to five social entrepreneurs within the Ashoka network, who contribute with their distinct and innovative approach to Beiersdorf’s mission and social focus area “Girls’ Empowerment.”
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