True value is in root.
This is the story of Shikha Shalini, a Teaching fellow from Darjeeling West Bengal and currently working in Government Girls Senior Secondary School, Ambedkar Nagar. Her life took its roots from her place of origin. An exquisite place filled with Natural Wonders. She was nurtured in an environment where people looked up to nature for their daily needs. It did lead her to keep the environment on the priority list. In some way or other, she is always indebted to do the same. Her schooling took place in the Terai region of Darjeeling. Though not having a comprehensive curriculum to learn about the environment from the beginning always stayed as a glitch in her heart. She Says ‘I could see the urgent need of this study to be imbibed in the value system of the generation, so they became the flag bearers of the conservation and preservation of the environment’.
The first spark of true desire.
After completing her schooling, She shifted to Delhi University for higher studies. It was there when she encountered another life-changing crossroad. She Says. “Studying literature exposed me to the themes which were seeded in my grey matter for long but never took the correct shape. The issue was of Gender, especially the migrant women. Hailing from a tea plantation family, I always saw the amount of labour put for the economic advancement of a company. But due to changing socio-political and environmental factors, women were forced to adopt new forms of livelihood practices and face substantial financial setbacks”. While reading the literature related to Gender, she was also introduced to the undeniable relation between Gender and environment. It was from this realization that she decided to fan the fires of her curiosity by diving deep into the co-relation through her post-graduation studies.
Destination is Unseen but not Unknown.
She started the most important chapter of her life when she decided to pursue her higher studies from the reputed Nalanda University, Rajgir Bihar with its historical roots. She had chosen a path on siren call, to pave the road to a destination which was“unseen but not unknown“. She says. I have always believed that nature and community can give you the lessons of life which would stay with you till your last walk. During her course in Nalanda, she was exposed to some of the most excellent courses and allowed the liberty to form her Pilot project to test the hypothesis on various issues related to the environment and women.
As a bird looking for a destination, she took the wings from the land of wisdom, where her thesis guided her to the significant issue of Environment Change and its impact on the tea labors of the Darjeeling tea industry. The literature in this field was scarce to find, so she decided to be a part of the process to add her square one to a big field. During this time, She was also inclined towards different sustainable development goals. She Says. “I thought of ways through which these can be delivered to the lowest strata of society. My search stopped when I was introduced to the Teach For India Fellowship. It had everything I would have ever desired to bring about the change in the field of Gender and Environment”.
….and the new Journey Began.
The journey from being a social researcher to the social scientist was not comfortable one as when you decide to be the wheel who would start the revolution, boulders of rocks and thorny ways welcome you with full arms. The community immersion where she was supposed to pilot the houses of students she was going to be teaching and doing modules for, were coming from low-income groups. She says. “It broke my heart first, and then my strength to see kids struggle with necessities let alone the fabricated fable tale of education. The face-off with the current reality shook the last atom of my spine, wanting me to quit. But, the hope which kept me going and striving was to try to create a space where these kids would get a chance to be the ambassadors of sustainability, not only in terms of the environment but self-sufficient”.
Moving ahead for the Change.
She got an opportunity to work in “Be The Change Project” (BTCP) during the first year of her fellowship from Teach for India (TFI). Under this project she moved ahead on the road not taken with an idea for ‘Making the two-generation Sustainable entrepreneurs of tomorrow’ It was carefully divided into phases where she taught and learned in the process that her 55 super girls must be first aware of the challenges they would face as a generation who would have to deal with worst environmental degradation like Delhi Air pollution story.
She says. “This story is like a tale which is told every year, same month because of the utter neglect of people. They understood that they would have to voice out their concern to create a better tomorrow for themselves. I educated the girls on sustainable practices through many inspiring stories of women around, and they taught me how low-income households would adopt to entrepreneurship through little training and a lot of belief. Teaching is the most significant learning”.
It is true that somehow we are the recipient of wisdom in the whole process of education. Her second phase was to create two-generational sustainable entrepreneurs by using stuff like plastic bottles and turning them into a sapling pot to be sold in the market. The quest to be better than the best has continued and in the present, Girls are community leaders who hold meetings in their community and educate plus co-train the two-generation mother and daughter to recycle and earn for their dignified sustainability.
Connected the dots for the better future.
The quest for a girl like Shikha is to be able to fabricate a space where women from different sectors are it agriculture or industry come together and work for the amelioration of the environment. She says. “The covet for enriching my knowledge takes me to pursue my Doctoral dreams from the same field where now I would like to create a lasting impact on the academia and future graduate students”.
A dream would be to create content for the generation of today who get to learn about the environment from early days of schooling if “A is for Apple, A is also for Air”. The need for Holistic and Inclusive education is what developing country like ours needs.
On the last line, she says. “We always have a choice in life, Always. Your decision to not choose is also a choice. So make sure your choice counts, your voice is heard, and Earth is restored. There is No Planet B”.