Here’s a little context on why I am fundraising to finish my masters education.
It has never been a straight line for me when it comes to education. Staying in school was always a challenge because we almost never had the money to pay for tuition month-on-month or buy new books at the beginning of the school year and that has been the case right from when I was in kindergarten.
It is because I always knew that maybe someday I wouldn’t be able to make it back to school, I always worked hard and tried to make the most of the days I had. In school, I excelled in academics and co-curricular activities. In 12 years of school, I’ve won several national and international awards in public speaking competitions like debate and elocution. In Grade 12, I scored 95% in the senior secondary school examinations, and secured a coveted spot in one of the best undergraduate programmes in Journalism in India at Lady Shri Ram College for Women, University of Delhi.
That said, the struggle with finances continued. It was difficult to manage my expenses in a metro city like Delhi as I’ve grown up in the small town of Varanasi. Somehow, with help from friends and family, I managed to graduate with not one but two degrees: BA (H) Journalism and a Diploma in Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding from Lady Shri Ram College. I was also the President of the Department of Journalism from 2015 - 2016.
While all my other friends were already thinking about studying further, I began applying for jobs, so I could earn and support myself, and to a certain extent also my parents. The dependencies have only grown since.
What I do for a living:
With my background in journalism and conflict studies, I started my career at one of India’s largest online social justice platforms - Youth Ki Awaaz (YKA). At YKA, I worked as a community editor, wherein I made complex social justice issues accessible for a young, online audience. Later, as the Team Lead of Campus Watch, I managed a team of talented editors and writers who reported on campus issues like sexist hostel rules, outdated curriculum, campus politics, and more.
As part of a joint project by Facebook India and YKA called #JetSetVote - I organised 41 voter awareness workshops for over 3500 college students in India. Out of those 41 workshops, I facilitated over 25 workshops with 2500+ students in 14 different India cities in 2017.
For nine months during the pandemic, I worked with Ungender, a legal advisory that works with public and private organizations to make workplaces safe, diverse and inclusive. In my time, I worked as their Content and Communications Lead and created content that simplified gender-based laws like the PoSH Act, Maternity Benefit Act, and Transgender Persons (Protections of Rights) Act, among other things.
In the last six months, I’ve been working with the COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs at the World Economic Forum managing special projects and assisting with communications directed at amplifying the efforts Alliance members have been making to support 100,000 social entrepreneurs working both as frontline and last mile responders during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I also facilitate Paani Foundation’s Planeteers Workshop with students between the Grades of 5 and 7, where I talk to them about ways to imagine and work for a greener future through films, fun activities and discussions.
If you choose to support me in completing my education, you’d be investing in not my past but my future. A future that I plan to make the most of, so I can make use of my skills, experiences and privileges to enable underserved communities to prosper, with a special focus on women and children, across intersectionalities.
A detailed breakdown of the expenses needed for my second year at Sciences Po:
I am currently enrolled for a two year masters degree in International Security at Sciences Po, Paris, with a special focus on gender, emerging technologies and global economy. Sciences Po is the second in the world for Politics and International Studies.
I was accepted into the MA in International Security programme at Sciences Po, Paris in 2018. As I didn’t have the money then, I had requested to defer for a year. I finally started my first year in 2019.
For the first academic year in 2019, I was able to bear the costs (which amounted to INR 24 lakhs) as I was awarded the prestigious JN Tata Loan Scholarship, the Charpak Travel Scholarship, and I borrowed the remaining amount from my friends in bits and pieces - all of which I must begin to return starting 2022.
Due to the many challenges that the pandemic brought with it, I took a gap year from 2020 - 2021. I am now halfway through my degree and need your help in reaching the finish line. I am expected to begin my final semester of my second year in January 2022 but do not have the funds to pay for my :
- tuition fees (14,500 EUR) or INR 12,42,505,
- gap year fee for the last academic session (25% of the tuition fee - EUR 3625 or INR 3,10,624 ) that I had to take because of the pandemic,
- living costs (approx EUR 6000 or INR 5,14,136 for 6 months - Jan to June 2022, including rent, food, inter-city transportation costs, etc.),
- one-way transport and visa expenses that amount to approximately EUR 1000 or INR 85,689
Current financial situation:
Since late 2016, I have supported my parents and my grandmother. My father is self-employed and my mother a homemaker.
Given our financial condition, we’re able to make it paycheck to paycheck. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to manage the costs of a small family with two 50-something-year-olds, and an 84-year-old on my current salary.
That said, I have spent the last 18 months trying to secure a bank loan as my family doesn’t own a collateral to get a student loan sanctioned. Further, I have been trying to talk to both public and private banks since 2019 - the year I started my masters degree at Sciences Po. Since my degree is not a STEM program, my requests have been denied.
Similarly, Non Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) also look for guarantors with a certain credit score to give loans on really high interest rates that start from the time they give the loan — not an arrangement I can make work given financial limitations. Doors to formal institutions are shut for me. I do not know any friend or family member who I can borrow such a large sum of money from.
Fundraising is my last attempt to see if I can finish my master’s degree at Sciences Po. If this doesn’t work out, I will have to drop out.