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My Journey As The Founder Of A School For The Underprivileged

Hi, I am Meenu Padha from Jammu and Kashmir (India). I am a 26-year-old lawyer and women and child rights activist. I am the founder of Masti Ki Pathshala, a school for underprivileged children. Masti Ki Pathshala is an evening informal school situated in the Gorkha Nagar basti (slum) in Jammu. The school provides quality education to underprivileged children.

I, along with my brother Nikhil Padha, specifically work on the implementation of Right to Education. It’s a human right and also a fundamental right in India, but hasn’t been properly implemented in India. Still, there are a number of children who have never been to school or dropped out of school in between. That is when we decided to start masti Ki Pathshala.

We started Masti Ki Pathshala (MKP) more than two years ago with just two siblings, Khushi and Abhimanyu. Their father is a labourer. On our first day at MKP, when I asked Khushi what she wanted to become. She said, “Madam, mein toh teacher banungi (Madam, I will become a teacher one day).” That day, my brother and I promised each other come what may, we will never stop this initiative. And it’s been more than two years now since MKP started.

A bunch of school girls looking happy
Representational image.

The most challenging task was to convince the parents of children living in the surrounding area to enrol their kids to MKP. This was because they considered education of no use. But when you do something with your heart and soul, God always helps you. We were able to convince the parents and right now, MKP has more than 40 underprivileged children who are getting quality education here.

Another challenging task was collecting resources to start the school. So, with the help of my family, friends and relatives, I was able to collect some funds to continue this school. However, there is lot more to be done. I want to open Masti Ki Pathshala in every district of Jammu and Kashmir, so that not even a single child is deprived of education.

There’s a lockdown in place currently, because of which we are not able to teach the kids as they cannot afford smartphones to access online classes. But we have provided them with some homework that they have to complete during this lockdown period. We hope everything is back to normal soon and we are able to start teaching the MKP kids again.

Besides running the school, I also work as the President of National Child and Women Development Council (Jammu and Kashmir), India. I am also the ambassador of an International Child Abuse Prevention Program and the Global Goodwill Ambassador (India). In addition to this, I am an Honorary Member of National Human Rights and Humanitarian Federation (NHRF), India.

I am a committed humanitarian, trying my best to defend violation of women and child rights. The main reason why I chose law was to fight for the justice of the deprived. Everywhere we go, we see a gross violation of women and child human rights. I believe that children, who have never been responsible for any conflict, war, draught or pandemic, end up becoming one of the worst sufferers.

Achievement and Awards

1. I have been awarded by the US Presidential Advisory Board for my dedication to humanitarian work.

2. I also been awarded with the Women Empowerment Award in 2020 by National Child and Women Development Council, India.

3. I’ve been awarded with the Honorary Award by Namal Jeewananda Foundation.

4. I got a Certificate of Appreciation by Universal Peace, Friendship and Brotherhood.

In addition to this, I have been awarded by a number of national and international organisations.

Challenges That I Have Faced

There were a number of challenges I have faced till date. I belong to a middle-class family. Although my parents have always supported me in all of my work, there were a lot of responsibilities towards my family that I had to take care of. But with God’s grace and with my parents blessings, I never stop. And I won’t stop working to do my bit to make this world a better place. I am committed to this vision and I strongly believe that when you are doing something good with your heart and soul and harming no one, God always watches over you.

At the end, I just want to say that if you want to do something in life, do it with love, compassion, humility and devotion. And then, no kind of negativity will ever be able to stop you.

Thank you.

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