Article: 17-year-old Alekhya's mission to put women in charge


17-year-old Alekhya's mission to put women in charge

Alekhya's initiatives have garnered recognition including a Silver Medal in the prestigious Pramerica Life Insurance Emerging Visionaries programme.
17-year-old Alekhya's mission to put women in charge

The pandemic kept Alekhya confined at home, but it also sparked a fire within her. The seventeen-year-old witnessed a troubling trend among the housekeepers in her own home. 

"Even though they earned decent salaries, many of these women didn't have control over their money," she explained, a frown creasing her brow. "They would simply hand over their paychecks to their husbands, and some even complained about not having money for their own personal expenses.”

This observation sat heavy with Alekhya. A bright and curious teenager, she couldn't shake the feeling that something wasn't right. "These women were working hard, yet they lacked the basic skills to manage their finances," she thought. Determined to help, Alekhya decided to take action.

Determined to understand if this was an isolated case or a more widespread issue, Alekhya launched a simple Google survey. The results left her stunned: over 90% of the respondents shared similar experiences, painting a concerning picture of women's financial disempowerment.

"That's when I decided to do something about it," Alekhya recounts. "I wanted to empower these women with the knowledge and confidence to take charge of their finances."

Thus began the journey of MPower Yourself, Alekhya's financial literacy programme aimed at underprivileged women. She started by offering training sessions on savings, investments, and using bank accounts. However, Alekhya soon realised that imparting knowledge alone was not enough. "Many of the women also had a deep fear of the unknown when it came to banking," she explains. "So I went a step further, helping them open accounts and guiding them through their first few transactions."

The impact of MPower Yourself has been tangible. So far, the initiative has reached over 850 women, with more than 400 bank accounts opened and participants signing up for insurance and learning about government schemes. Alekhya has had to overcome language barriers and initial distrust, but her persistence and partnerships with local organisations have allowed her to make a difference.

"The most rewarding feeling is seeing the impact and the difference we are making in the lives of these women," Alekhya says, a sense of pride evident in her voice. "When some of them compliment MPower Yourself for helping them become self-confident, that's what keeps me going."

Empowering artistic minds - the birth of H2P2

Alekhya's second initiative, H2P2 (Happy Hands Pots & Pans), was born out of a different set of observations and personal interests. During the pandemic, as she found herself confined at home, Alekhya discovered a newfound passion for art. "I started painting anything I could get my hands on - rocks, leaves, even old pots and pans," she recalls.

At the same time, Alekhya had also become increasingly aware of the environmental hazards posed by Teflon-coated non-stick pans. "I wanted to do something about it, and that's when the idea for H2P2 took shape," she explains. Alekhya began collecting used pans from her community and enlisted a few NGOs whose members and inmates were enlisted to help paint the pans.  Primarily she took the help of children and adults with special needs to transform them into vibrant wall hangings.

"The minute art started, art became a language for communication," Alekhya marvels, describing the joy she witnessed on the faces of the participants during the painting sessions. "The look on their faces as they expressed themselves through this unique medium was truly priceless."

To date, H2P2 has upcycled over 300 pans with the assistance of 100 NGO members. In addition to raising awareness about the dangers of Teflon, the initiative also provides art therapy and income-generating opportunities for specially-abled artists.

Alekhya acknowledges the labour-intensive nature of the project, from collecting the pans to selling the finished products. "It's a challenge, for sure," she admits. "But I've partnered with the Sandesh NGO to run more regular cycles with their members, and that's helping us scale up the operation."

As Alekhya looks to the future, her vision for both MPower Yourself and H2P2 is clear. She wants to take the financial literacy programme online to increase its reach, and she's also exploring partnerships with the government to make it a part of the school curriculum. For both MPower Yourself and H2P2, she's enlisted the help of fellow student volunteers to expand the initiative's impact.

Alekhya's initiatives have been recognised, including a Silver Medal in Pramerica's Emerging Visionaries programme. For her, however, the real reward is touching lives and making a difference.

"The joy on the faces of the women in my programmes, the pride in the eyes of the special needs artists - that's what motivates me," Alekhya says, her words brimming with conviction. "As long as I can continue making a tangible impact, I'll keep going. This is just the beginning."

Alekhya's story is a refreshing reminder that problem-solving skills can emerge at any age. Her ability to identify real-world problems and develop creative solutions to address them resonates with the core principles of effective problem-solving in any organisation. By fostering a culture that encourages employees to identify challenges and propose solutions, businesses can not only empower their workforce but also cultivate a more innovative and engaged team.

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Topics: Entrepreneurship, #SheMatters

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