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Preeti Prada, is the Campaign Coordinator at the Humara Bachpan national campaign, which aims to ensure a safe and healthy environment for young children living in urban poverty. She talks to us about her journey, finding her passion, and her ongoing fight to ensure rights for children.
How would you describe your own childhood, growing up in Bhubaneshwar? What inspired you to take up the cause of children living in urban poverty?
Preeti Prada: My childhood was indeed a good one. I had plenty to do as a child: learn dance, music, and painting. My mother ensured that my time was invested in the right direction. My cause wasn’t ‘children in urban poverty,’ it had to do with children who have been debarred of their rights. Growing up I would witness children playing at railway platforms, children on the streets, and that would upset me. So I was always clear that I wanted to work for children.
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Can you tell us a little about your journey to the London School of Economics? What is the one thing you learnt while you were at LSE that has had a profound impact on you as a person?
Preeti Prada: I was focused as a child. I would spend an ample amount of my time volunteering for children since my school days. LSE was a dream that I wanted to live. Post my graduation in India, I decided upon going for further studies and really witness how an international institution would fire my imaginations and allow me to understand the world better. And then LSE happened, and it actually allowed me to think that there are many shades to a problem, and that you should penetrate deeper to witness a change. And that’s been my approach – I seek solutions, because I always believe that in some way or another a solution can always be reached.
Since you work with young children and girls living in urban poverty, how would you describe their attitude to overcome hardships? What can we learn from them?
Preeti Prada: Young girls growing up in these difficult situations are very vulnerable to shame and harassment on a regular basis. But what’s inspiring is their hope that things will change one day. They are everyday fighters who teach you to never give up. One success story that comes to my mind is of 13 year old Jasmin, who is growing up in the slums of Bhubaneswar. Her father is a butcher and is unable to make both ends meet, and she is regularly confronted with discrimination in her school by her peers. But when you meet her, she always has a smile.
She believes in her role as a Humara Bachpan Child Leader, and she is going to bring about a change. Recently, she was a panellist in an International Conference on ‘Children as Actors in Transforming Society’ in Caux, Switzerland and it was a conviction about a changed, sensitive world that amazed an international gathering of 350.
What have you enjoyed the most about working with the Humara Bachpan Campaign? Is that any part that you dislike or find disappointing?
Preeti Prada: The Humara Bachpan Campaign has been a part of me, it’s my passion, and it’s what I want to do. As a kid, when my teacher would ask me – what do you want to grow up to be? my answer would always be “an inspiration”. She would never understand me. Today, my little girls – Jasmin, Sasmita, or Sagarika – from Humara Bachpan child clubs say they want to be like me. For me it’s a personal achievement, a gratifying feeling, that I have been able to make a difference, or to have touched their lives in some way.
What do I not like? Nothing!
As a kid, when my teacher would ask me – what do you want to grow up to be? my answer would always be “an inspiration”.
Lastly, what advice would you give to all the young women aspiring to become self-sufficient and successful? Also, do you have any suggestions for young people who wish to work in the social/policy sector?
Preeti Prada: For all the young girls and women I just have one thing – always believe in you. For me, the best thing about this sector has been the takeaways in the form of a child’s smile. I know someone believes in me, trusts me enough to love me immensely; that’s the charm of working with children. So, don’t look to this sector as just a career option but a passion to witness a change, and then you can be happy.
It’s also good to be in constant reach of the people that you work with, so whether they are children, old people, or women, it would be beneficial if you could share a part of their lives to understand what they really go through, so that when you advocate for them or resolve issues it would be as important to you as it is to them.
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