There’s no techno-fix for poor education in India. But as an amplifier, technology can give a powerful and positive means to enrich education in a way that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago. These are not my words but thoughts from a young man from Minnesota, US who started his life in India as a consultant in ‘social development initiatives’ for a business lobby.
Today Franz Gastler is the proud founder of Yuwa. Founded in 2009, Yuwa is a not for profit organization that teaches girls to play football so that they are strong enough to take their own decisions and confident enough to face the world. Apart from training in football, the not-for-profit organization provides coaching in English and math. It also holds a range of workshops—everything from learning-based fun and games for the younger children to gender and violence discussions for the older girls.
Most of these girls from the hinterland of Jharkhand at Hutup, rarely get a chance to choose their own future but then the girls of Yuwa are rewriting their script with football.
Yuwa is now one of the largest girls’ football programs in India, with 250 players, 150 of whom practice daily. In 2013, the team finished third in an under-14 tournament in Spain, and last year they travelled to the US to take part in the Schwan’s USA Cup.
This year Franz decided to scale up the education program at Yuwa; he teamed up with Lenovo India along with digital agency Experience Commerce to better the lives of the Yuwa girls using technology. This led to the birth of a very interesting social campaign executed completely on digital – #PitchToHer
The campaign called for bright minds to pitch smart ideas that can impact the life of these girls. They could be ideas such as building a mobile app to track football attendance for the girl coaches or even build noise proofing for Yuwa’s tin-roof classrooms.
The one idea that would get the Yuwa girls convinced, would be invited to visit Hutup for a month-long sponsored internship. This was a chance for all those who always wanted to make a difference, where one not only gets a chance to pitch her idea but also execute it.
While the entries started pouring in on the microsite, Lenovo and the Experience Commerce team joined the girls in the month of August to bring some joy to their lives and resolve some of their mundane issues with the power of tech.
From placing Hutup on Wikipedia and Google Street View, the girls got a chance to have some musical interaction with Surojit Chatterjee – co-founder of Bengali rock band “Bhoomi”, who came down from Kolkata to hang out with the girls, play songs for them, help them use Makey-Makey kits and create music with them.
The fun didn’t end there, Yuwa girls experimented with lighting up solar jars, GoPro cams and light painting. Our previous coverage, From Creating Music To Lighting Up Solar Jars, Yuwa Girls Are Hacking Their Way Ahead With Lenovo covers all the activities and excitement.
Post all this fun, the Yuwa girls went through the 1340 diverse pitches received via #PitchToHer. A plethora of ideas from setting up libraries and community centres to developing safety apps and building technical skills were put forth by pitchers from across the country and beyond.
The girls finally chose three pitches in the last leg of the campaign; they will now undergo internship for the next 90 days at Hutup collaborating with the girls to turn their ideas into action.
The first intern Anandini Chawla, a science and tech graduate from Delhi, will teach Scratch, HTML coding and Python to the YUWA girls. Deepa Roy Chowdhury, the second intern is a former Revenue Officer in the Government of Rajasthan who is of the opinion that 6 out of 10 girls in Jharkhand drop out of schools because of poor menstruation management. She wants to train the YUWA girls in making sanitary napkins with A.Muruganantham’s cheap sanitary pads machine.
The third and final intern Kailasham Ramalingam, a chemical engineer in Mumbai, has proposed to build a mobile app feature that will help YUWA coaches to keep a track of all scholarships which the girls can apply to. Here is Kailasham’s story and his experience with the Yuwa girls.
This year we have seen Indian brands truly associate themselves with such cause marketing initiatives beyond just donations. With the #PitchToHer campaign, Lenovo India and Experience Commerce have given a new spin to such cause campaigns where user contribution is always a challenge. The campaign not only challenges people to do good by getting involved with these girls but also gives them the opportunity to see their idea see the light of the day.
While the girls have been experimenting and having fun with technology and internet, the social media channels of Lenovo have been sharing the live action with the website being the central hub.
A path breaking campaign from Lenovo that gets praise from Franz, “Boots on the ground give a clearer picture than reading fuzzy figures in NGO annual reports, and more involved partnerships like Lenovo’s will help to separate the wheat from the chaff in our sector.”