This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Nagakarthik Mp. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

How Impact Tourism Is Accelerating Change In This Remote Himalayan Village

Breswana is a typical Kashmiri Himalayan village situated in the Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir. The village is home to about 1700 people, the economy is mostly agrarian, and the village is an 8 km uphill climb from the nearest motorable road. The village was relatively unknown to the outside world until as recently as 2009.

So, what changed? In 2009, Sabbah Haji decided to move back to Breswana, her ancestral village in order to start a school that provided high-quality education, and that opened up the world to the kids in this high altitude remote community. What started with 30 students inside a room in the family  home has now expanded into the Haji Public School, with over 450 students from 20 surrounding villages and a successful volunteer programme. It is a school that uses experiential methods to impart learning to these first-generation learners. The vibrant and fun-filled assembly every morning is filled with songs, facts and news from all over the world. The school practices inclusiveness, questions patriarchy and empowers young girls and women. From Donald Trump to the abortion law in Ireland, it is no surprise to hear them discuss everything under the sun. In a predominantly Muslim village, this approach is about creating exposure and free-thinking, while respecting traditions and cultural heritage.

The school functions with the help of a steady stream of volunteers from across India. Three of these volunteers decided to create Sauramandala –  a social enterprise that works on livelihood projects in Breswana. This group works on projects related to energy access, enabling education and generating local employment.

Their first project has helped the school to completely go off the grid and on to solar power. In addition to this, they now have connected screens and reliable internet connectivity.

The school initially used to get less than 200 hours of intermittent power supply in a month, now they have electricity round the clock, with smart classrooms. This has been instrumental in helping the teachers engage students in the classrooms and make lessons more interesting.

The second Sauramandala project is an innovative approach to experiential impact tourism.

The idea of electrifying houses in the mountain villages every time a traveller passes through could be a game changer. An incredible solution where we use tourism as a tool for social change.

Their innovative approach to quantifying social impact created by each tour in the village is catalysing change. SauraMandala quantifies the impact created, based on three parameters — Energy Access, Education and Employment. Aligning with these goals, each trip enables employment for 4-8 households, contributes to the education of three children and electrifies one house.

Each group lives and interacts with a family in the village during their stay, in exchange for the food and hospitality that the villagers provide, the group pays for the electrification of the house. We believe this is a mutually symbiotic and a wholly enriching experience for both parties.

The tours are usually a week long and involve nature walks, culinary classes, living in traditional village huts, apple picking, camping, mountain biking. The experiences are diverse and could range from learning to make local cheese at Rahida’s home, to a crash course in making your own axe at the local blacksmith, or accompanying Altaf on his two-hour walk home from school to learn about the culture and ethnicity of the Gujjar community. They have a strict “take back your plastic trash” policy, and you can even offer to take back the plastic generated in the village and dispose it at the nearest town.

There are many underlying issues that are addressed by this model –

  • It makes it possible to move away from burning wood or kerosene which are a health and environmental hazard.
  • By creating employment locally, it gives an option that is now desirable to many of the locals. “Before the men in the village usually used to go to work as road construction labourers in harsh conditions due to unavailability of work at Breswana, this affected their health adversely. We had 18-20-year-olds with broken backs,” says Saleem Haji, who is the village head at Breswana. The villagers could now have the option of alternative sources of employment related to this tourism initiative.
  • Providing clean reliable energy also enables continuity of the education for the children, at their homes.

When questioned about scale, this is what Sauramandala had to say, “We hope to train local resources to be able to run the enterprise at the village level which lends itself to a more sustainable and long-term model. We will then explore replicating the model is in other locations.

While the team agrees that this is a slower and longer-term approach, the idea that they will be creating sustainable enterprises is what drives them forward.

Want to participate in one of their tours? You can write to them here


You must be to comment.

More from Nagakarthik Mp

Similar Posts

By Mrittunjoy Guha Majumdar

By Preeti Ojha

By Charkha features

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below