Author – Ms. Akshaya Jalasteen, MGN Fellow – IIM Lucknow, located at Aizawl District, Mizoram
“When you find your ‘why’ you find a way to make it happen”. This quote by Eric Thomas succinctly articulates my hitherto MGNF (Mahatma Gandhi National Fellowship) journey as a fellow hailing from the southernmost state and deployed in the easternmost state of India – Mizoram. For me, the fellowship presented a remarkable learning experience. Overtime, my quest of finding the ‘whys’ gradually started to assume a legible and structured trajectory.
Like everyone else, I encountered my fair share of hardships when relocating to a new environment, culture, and social milieu/s, case in point- my deployment as an MGN Fellow in Aizawl. I am grateful to all the officials and other staff who eventually helped me settle down in a new place. I was delighted to finally get my workspace.
Initiatives and Projects taken up as an MGN Fellow in Aizawl, Mizoram
My skilling journey gradually picked pace in a new city with zero resources and linguistic knowledge. Nonetheless, with full zest, I started my work of collecting data from all DSC members by connecting with them over calls. To gel into society, I started learning the Mizo language and culture basics. My efforts and persistence got rewarded when I was able to finally break the ice with a ‘Chibai’– which means hello in the Mizo language and got welcomed with tea and snacks sooner – a moment of personal pride.
Apart from fulfilling the task given by the Ministry, I initiated a ‘Youth Aspirations Survey’, wherein the purpose was to understand the skill ecosystem in the district for which a total of 90 youths responded. Thereafter, I reported my survey findings to the Aizawl DC, which was greatly appreciated by her so much so that she officially ordered the administration of the survey throughout the district.
Needless to say, the survey was very impactful as 1100 youths between the age groups of 14 to 45 years responded. The findings of the survey added new insights about the skilling landscape and were presented in the first DSC meeting. The success of this survey subsequently paved the way for another survey viz. ‘Village Assessment’ wherein 104 village councils were surveyed to understand the skill needs of Aizawl District.
It might also interest you to watch – Empowering Women With Skills & Entrepreneurship – Inspiring Journey of MGNF Fellows from IIM Lucknow – https://youtu.be/PrbHVZ_u8rA
Concomitantly, I also started working with SRLM and a few SHGs. With the help of a few working in the handloom sector, we conceptualized ‘The Fusion Handloom Project’. The concept was adopted by an SHG called ‘Studiongote’ and we started working on the same. We were able to facilitate collaboration with ‘My e – haat’ of HCL Foundation for the purpose.
In the process, I also learned how to leverage the social media platforms like LinkedIn to identify and reach out to relevant CSR projects for enhancing the skill ecosystem of the district. Thus, the proposal from CSRBOX for implementing IBM Skillsbuild Project came into the picture, and with the help of my co–fellow, Mr. Ajinkya, I was able to connect with them. It was the beginning of a new chapter.
IBM Skillsbuild Project was bifurcated into two projects – IBM Skillsbuild’s ‘College Chapter’ for ‘Empowering the Youth’ and ‘School Chapter’ for initiating ‘NEP implementation in the state’. After almost 9 months of groundwork, starting from sensitizing the schools, and colleges, and finalizing the Phase of the project, the first CSR project involving an MNC was implemented in the district.
It was conducted in 10 colleges and 15 schools during a one-month offline drive. Thanks to all the people involved, phase 1 was a great success covering almost 12,000 students directly. The result was so evident that the state decided to scale for phase 2 of the project for the rest of the institutions.
Meanwhile, the pilot run of ‘HCL my e-haat’ was completed with ‘Studiongote’ by uploading 10 products from the district to the portal. The details of the same were shared with the DSC members and SSDM director which in turn resulted in planning for a state-level implementation to assist the local artisans and entrepreneurs, with Aizawl as the export hub.
By this time, we were able to attract more initiatives and CSR projects to the district, mainly through the LinkedIn Platform. The main projects are – the CSR initiative under Mouktik Consultancy – for placement support and community development programs, and Collaboration with ‘Vyomika Aerospace’ partnering with ‘ISRO’ for setting up ‘The First Space lab in the State for improving the scientific temperament among students.
The design and execution of any project needed a lot of patience and effort and more so not being able to visit my home for a whole year was at times making me very emotional. But at the end of the day, the sense of satisfaction when that girl from a refugee school or that random youth on the roadside tells me: “You have inspired me”, makes me happy, and realize how the MGNF program has given me the direction and purpose, and that inspires me moving forward.