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

This Traveller, Blogger And SHEpreneur Launched Her Startup On A Smartphone

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By Akriti Mattu:

As a child, my brother and I were encouraged to travel a lot. When the rest of the world was busy investing money on building huge houses and buying fancy cars, our parents were happily investing in us. Taking from the maximum exposure of this world, the travel bug hit me.

Yearly, we took trips to different parts of India and I decided that someday I’d blog about different locations of the world. Little did I know that I won’t just blog but create a global community of travel bloggers.

The more I travel, the deeper I’m able to connect with                                 the world & myself 

Two decades later, while returning home after work, I was searching online for the best places to visit in Pondicherry (I planned to take a trip soon). It was then that the subsequent idea struck me – “Why not start a platform where each traveller is encouraged to contribute unique content that helps other fellow travellers understand and connect with a destination more?” Smartphone in my hand, I looked at the screen and signed up on WordPress and 30 seconds later my start-up, Budget Wayfarers was launched. A workshop on website creation helped me convert the free WordPress blog into a fully functional website.

Unlike any conventional ‘a.m. to p.m.’ platform, bloggers at Budget Wayfarers work through different time zones in flexible-timings. It’s work-from-anywhere!

A coffee shop, college canteen, office boardroom, beach and even a trek (Yes! That’s happened!).

Today, at Budget Wayfarers, hundreds of blogs are written by travellers across the globe catering to an audience who find our stories useful. 100% original content is our benchmark owing to real travel experiences.

Once onboard, each blogger is given the opportunity to earn per article. They’re trained, mentored, offered detailed feedback, and then published with us. The underlying principle of our platform is to learn and earn.

We have a mom of two who left her job due to household responsibilities. She never thought she’d get back after 10+ years of work gap. One day, she found us online and dropped us her first email in over 10 years. Since then, there’s no looking back for her. Onboard Budget Wayfarers, she became a travel blogger. Not only did she create, learn and craft excellent content, but the experience also uplifted her confidence. Using this acquired skill, she launched her own portal. We couldn’t be prouder of her as a platform! 

Calling explorers, nomads, travellers to connect                                                 with me

Being the founder of a travel startup, I ‘m always on the lookout for travellers with a good eye. When I discovered the SHEROES Travel community, I thought it was a great way for women travellers and bloggers to showcase themselves and their experiences. I was invited to be a community guest moderator for a day around the theme #BudgetTravel, and it was an eye-opening experience. Many women opened up about lack of confidence to travel solo, and also wanted to know how to travel without going broke. Additionally, I hosted a community chat, where I got to share my nuggets on travel blogging, vlogging, and planning.

Growing As An Entrepreneur

As an entrepreneur, I love the fact that I was able to single-handedly turn an idea into something valuable; having a global audience has also really boosted my take-charge spirit. But there are some challenges.  

My support wishlist as an entrepreneur includes schemes, programmes and platforms by the government or private organizations with the sole intent of helping women leaders grow professionally. I’m sure any budding entrepreneur like me will scout for start-up development topics and means to implement them.

In this aspect, I find SHE Starts Up!, an entrepreneurship support community on SHEROES, helpful. I joined this community of SHEpreneurs and wannabe SHEprenuers and it’s amazing to see the collaborative environment bridge the gap between women at different stages of their business journeys. 

      A snapshot depicting our global community

Here are my tips to wannabe SHEpreneurs of the community:

  • Get out there and launch your venture. No need for validation before going ahead!
  • Pay no heed to myths like – “You’re a woman and so you’ll not get investors for your brand easily.”
  • Try creating more and more value out of your brand
  • Aim to earn some decent and stable revenue; I encourage dependency on revenue over investments.
  • It’s a world of endless possibilities, and there’s no place for negativity!

About Akriti Mattu:

Born amidst snow clad Himalayas in the dreamy town of Shimla, with roots from Kashmir, I’m a free spirit in every sense of the term. A storyteller who loves travelling, I’m happily spending my days building the largest global community for travellers and bloggers at Budget Wayfarers. At heart, I’m a die-hard vlogger. Content makes me alive. Travel makes me live.

                                 SHEROES Communities for women are accessible via Sheroes.com and the SHEROES app
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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.

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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.

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