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Inspirational Woman: Roopa Purushothaman | Founder of Avasara Academy

roopaI am an economist and the Head of Research at Everstone Capital.

In my role, I cover macro and thematic issues on demographics, income and consumption patterns. Previously, I was a vice president and global economist at Goldman Sachs. While at GS, I co-authored the report: ‘Dreaming with BRICs: The Path to 2050’, along with other published papers on demographics and long-term structural growth.

I am a member of the Prime Minister’s advisory committee for JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission) and I am a member of the Aspen Institute’s India Leadership Initiative. I am also the founder of Avasara Leadership Institute, an educational institution focused on accelerating academic and leadership outcomes for India’s brightest girls. I am a World Economic Forum young global leader.

I hold a BA in Ethics, Politics and Economics and International Studies from Yale University and an MSc in Development Studies from the London School of Economics.

Avasara Foundation

Avasara is building a movement around excellence in girls’ education and leadership in India. We accelerate academic and leadership outcomes for adolescent girls through four activities:

  • Avasara Academy: a residential school for talented girls slated for opening in Pune in 2015
  • The Avasara Young Talent program: a scholarship program that keeps girls at risk of dropout in school
  • The Avasara Leadership Fellowship program: an intensive after-school program for motivated girls from low-income backgrounds
  • Avasara Young Scientists: a a series of hands-on sessions to raise girls’ confidence and skills in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects through relevant and challenging enquiry activities.

Avasara has been successfully running scholarship and after-school interventions in Mumbai for the past three years. Avasara graduates will form a network of leaders and entrepreneurs who will collaborate to drive positive change across the country.

Avasara runs an after-school fellowship program in Mumbai for girls in 8th through to 10th standards. Through this fellowship, we meet so many hard-working, driven and inspiring young women. Earlier this year, our teachers asked our fellows to create a project that would improve their communities. All of us gave lengthy ideas – solar lighting for community housing that had no lighting at night; creating natural products that could preserve vegetables longer; online curricula to share with neighbourhood programs…the list went on and on.

A group of ninth standard girls decided that they wanted to do something different. They loved the literature circles we run in the after-school intervention. Some students devoured book after book! So they decided to start a library where one was badly needed. They started a children’s community lending library in Dharavi. Avasara fellows located space, negotiated rent, raised nearly five times their goal amount in a Kickstarter campaign, and they now manage the library in shifts on weekends. They had over one thousand visits in the first few weeks, and the library has now moved to a bigger, better space. The library founders are now taking a step back to concentrate on their 10th standard year, and our enthusiastic 8th standard bookworms are taking over the running of the library!

The project has been covered in several local papers. The students now say people recognise them with respect for bringing positive change to their community. Whereas in the earlier phases of the project, the students would wonder: ‘How can a group of 15 year olds raise money and start a library?’ they now ask, ‘How can we expand to more libraries and train other students to run them?’ and, ‘What other literacy work can we run in addition to lending books?’ In short, they have become entrepreneurs.

I tell this story because these students represent real empowerment: daily empowerment. They have ambition to find their own solutions. Some people call it drive, others say ambition. They create impact by stretching their resources as much as possible. They know hope. They do the hard work. In return, we as a nation will be empowered when we realise that we do not need to prescribe what these girls should be, but we do need to believe that there are no limits to what they can do.

To see our girls in action, please watch this 2 minute video by clicking here 

To follow our pedagogy, have a look at our blog

Also, here is a video highlighting our younger AYT scholarship recipients

You can also see a set of videos on Avasara here  including a short documentary, and the former Yale president speaking about Avasara

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